Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Japan takes a step in right direction

We are delighted to hear that Japan has announced that it will give former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) a visa for his visit to Japan on Dec. 27. We applaud Japan's humanitarian considerations in putting aside objections from China to deal with a personal visit in a normal way.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has had its self assurance compromised, and because of this has not been a normal country. In that time it has given China huge amounts of economic aid. But China continues to use the crimes committed by the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s to hijack Japan's compassion during crucial moments as a means of obtaining political advantage.

We sympathize with the hardships suffered by the Chinese people before and during World War II. And we have also taken note of Japan's introspection about its militaristic ideology over the last half century and the effort it has put into smoothing over the historical differences that it has with its Asian neighbors. But why has Taiwan been the only country omitted from these efforts?

In 1895, the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki (馬關條約), forcing Taiwan to endure 50 years of Japanese colonial rule. But history is not black and white. The Japanese established the foundations of the rule of law in Taiwan and presided over the introduction of modern education, paving the way for Taiwan's modernization. At the same time of course, Taiwanese were denigrated as "slaves of the Qing dynasty" and treated as second-class citizens. The memory of how the Japanese trampled on Taiwan during their occupation is still fresh in the collective memory of Taiwanese, and so Japan's toadying attitude toward China since World War II has greatly hurt their feelings.

We are not trying to claim any historic debt from Japan. We simply want Japan to take seriously the existence of Taiwan.

We are delighted to see that Japan is becoming a normal country and that it is moving toward establishing a normal relationship with Taiwan, rather than simply giving in to all of China's demands. As China is becoming a stronger military power and is beginning to threaten the balance of power in Asia, we call on Japan to assume the responsibility of a major regional power and help maintain security.

Since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took office, his actions have shown the world Japan's efforts to free itself from China's manipulation. This includes Japan's unprecedented support for Taiwan's membership in the World Health Organization and its willingness to grant a visa to Lee.

Taiwan has long been a major source of tourists to Japan and most Taiwanese have travelled there. When hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese visit Japan every year, why should Lee be prevented from doing so? To deny him entry would clearly be a case of discrimination and a violation of human rights. Lee's visit makes one think back to the visit by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara in October to help promote tourism to Taiwan.

There have been suggestions that Japan will give Taiwanese citizens visa-free entry during the half-year period of the Expo 2005 in Aichi. A visit by the highly charismatic Lee at this juncture is likely to have the same kind of positive effect for Japan's tourism as Ishihara's visit had for Taiwan's.

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