Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Japan fires air force chief for World War II viewpoint

THE GUARDIAN , TOKYO

The chief of staff of Japan’s air force is to be sacked after he claimed the country had been drawn into World War II by the US and denied it had been an aggressor during its occupations of the Asian mainland.

In an online essay titled “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” General Toshio Tamogami said on Friday that Japan had been provoked by US president Franklin Roosevelt and that many of Japan’s wartime victims took “a positive view” of its actions.

The claims drew a swift rebuke from politicians. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said he would dismiss the general immediately.

“I think it is improper of the air force chief of staff to publicly state a view that clearly differs from the that of the government,” he told reporters. “It is inappropriate for him to remain in this position.”

Prime Minister Taro Aso, a nationalist who has upset Japan’s neighbors with comments about the war, described Tamogami’s views as “inappropriate, even if they were made in a personal capacity.”

In the essay, which is likely to spark outrage in China and South Korea, Tamogami wrote: “Even now there are many people who think that our country’s aggression caused unbearable suffering to the countries of Asia during the Great East Asia War.”

Japanese nationalists use the term the Great East Asia War to support their view that Japan entered the conflict to free Asian countries from Western colonialism.

“But we need to realize that many Asian countries take a positive view of the [war]. It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor,” he wrote.

He said the Korean Peninsula had been “prosperous and safe” under Japan’s 1910 to 1945 occupation and that Roosevelt had “trapped” Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He went on to accuse Roosevelt of being a puppet of the Comintern, the international communist movement founded in Moscow in 1919.

Tamogami, who did not seek the defense ministry’s permission to submit the essay, called for Japan to reclaim its “glorious history.” He said: “A nation that denies its own history is destined to pursue a path of decline.”

He shares the view of many neo-nationalists that the Allied war crimes tribunals — which sent several Japanese leaders to the gallows — were a farce.

But it was his description of Japan as victim rather than aggressor that made his position untenable.

Japanese leaders, regardless of their personal views, have repeated an official apology to the country’s wartime victims issued by then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995. Aso, too, has said he will stand by Murayama’s apology.

Though an outspoken critic of China’s military spending, Aso has attempted to continue the thaw in relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

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