Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Japan PM Abe must be judged on his ability

By Tseng Wei-chen 曾韋禎

On Sept. 26, Japan's Liberal Dem-ocratic Party Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister -- the youngest since World War II, and the first to have been born after the war.

Three days later, Abe drew international attention when he laid out his policy priorities to parliament, maintaining that Japan should closely study cases where the right of collective self-defense may entitle the nation to project its military power.

It's worth considering how Taiwan should react to Abe's efforts to "normalize" his country and revise the Japanese Constitution, which does not currently permit the Self-Defense Force to make war against other countries or play a military role overseas.

Some Taiwanese media outlets have made a fuss about Abe's maternal grandfather Kishi Nobusuke, who was arrested as a suspected war criminal after World War II. What some people don't know is that Nobusuke was arrested because he had been a member of the Cabinet of prime minister Hideki Tojo, who was later executed as a war criminal.

Although the International Military Tribunal for the Far East held Kishi as a suspected Class A war criminal, it acquitted him of all charges in 1952. Therefore, Kishi should not be considered a war criminal.

In 1969, two years before Taiwan was expelled from the UN, Kishi, who had retired from his post as Japanese prime minister, paid a secret visit to Taiwan to persuade dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) to change Taiwan's national title and renounce its UN Security Council seat to retain UN membership. The proposition was also endorsed by Japanese prime minister Eisaku Sato but unequivocally rejected by Chiang.

Surprisingly, prior to the 26th UN General Assembly, Chiang softened his stance on Taiwan's status in the UN and made a belated decision to accept the US proposal of "dual recognition" or "two Chinas," but by then it was too late.

The way some commentators have attempted to use Kishi's past to vilify Abe is misleading and malicious, and indicates that certain local media outlets are still influenced by an unnecessary hostility to anything foreign.

In addition, these media outlets have also distorted Japan's efforts to become a "normal country," portraying it as a revival of its past imperialism. From an international perspective, this is a gross misinterpretation.

Japan has already suffered the consequence of its militarism. Following World War II, it made great efforts to atone for its past atrocities in Asian countries. What's more, some Japanese politicians have even seemed to develop a fear of China when speaking of their giant neighbor.

Only after Koizumi came to power did the Japanese gradually overcome their fear of China. Although Japanese government officials have refrained from expressing deep remorse over past aggression against their Asian neighbors, in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, former Japanese prime minister Murayama Tomiichi apologized for Japan's past.

It therefore seems unfair to ask a national Japanese leader born after World War II to shoulder the guilt for his country's wartime atrocities.

If Japan can successfully revise its pacifist Constitution, exercise the right of collective self-defense and normalize its international relations, that would definitely increase peace and security in the Asia-Pacific.

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