Mon, Oct 23, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Who speaks for Japan?

By Scott O'Bryan

While well meaning, Richard Halloran's article ("Time to conclude Japan's string of apologies for World War II," Oct 7, page 9) calling for a final listing of all Japan's apologies to East Asian victims of its aggression during WWII contains a glaring factual error and also a logical misstep.

He states that the emperor of Japan is the only one with the moral and constitutional authority to speak for all Japanese people. To make this statement displays ignorance of basic political facts in Japan.

The individual who speaks for all Japanese is the prime minister, chosen through democratic means in a democratic society.

The constitution clearly states that the emperor is merely the "symbol" of the people. Why call for the current emperor to speak for all Japanese precisely when you are arguing for apologies for the actions of a political system of the past, one of the most salient characteristics of which was that the emperor was the constitutional sovereign, a decidedly non-democratic arrangement?

Halloran's argument, taken on its own terms, makes no logical sense. And it makes no legal sense, either. The elected government of Japan speaks for the Japanese, not the emperor, just as in Britain and the US and every other democracy around the world.

Scott O'Bryan

Assistant Professor of History, Indiana University,

Indiana, USA

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