The positioning of “reconciliation”
When I think about my work life of “diplomacy” and “research” until now, ‘reconciliation’ has been the biggest theme. The basic structure of it is comparatively simple and clear― it has set the three-layered structure of the Pacific War, which Japan fought, as the foundation.
The three-layered structure is: (A) the battle between the United States and the United Kingdom was basically an equal fight as members of the imperialist great powers; (B) while there are various views about where to set the starting point for Taiwan and South Korea, annexed by the Japanese Empire, as colonialists, Japan as an aggressor of China is a “perpetrator;” and (C) though Japan has gone through various battles since the mid-19th century, the Soviets who broke the Neutrality Pact and invaded Japan, despite Japan requesting a mediation of the end of the Pacific War, rendered Japan’s position a “victim” in the Pacific War.
The basic structure of the problem of “reconciliation” is determined by the three-layered structure of this battle.
Within these three structures, what internalized the most difficult issue was (A) the United Kingdom-United States relations of “the equal fight among the imperialist great powers.” Why? For Japan that lost the war, it was inevitable as a loser to take the burden, cede the territories, and to pay compensation that had been accepted internationally until then. However, as a result of WWII encountering the transition period for postwar affairs including international law, Japan was not simply convicted as a defeated country, but of “crime against peace” or in other words, “crime for executing a war of aggression.” This was a conviction by an unacceptable ex-post facto law as well as a justice of the winner for many Japanese.
Both postwar Japan and the United States did not bring the contradictions of the postwar affairs to surface and built a suitable relationship of an “alliance” due to the efforts of a great many people. It appears that many Japanese positively evaluate it today. However, this does not indicate the root problem has disappeared. Prime Minister Abe made a speech that “sat close to the souls of American soldiers who died in the Pacific War” on April 29, 2015 at the joint convention of the upper and lower houses at the United States Congress. This is considered a path to “reconciliation” and carries an extremely significant implication. What is more, I believe that the mutual floral tributes at the Atomic Bomb Dome and Pearl Harbor during President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on May 27, 2016 and Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Hawaii on December 27 of the same year, respectively, was another important path to “reconciliation.”
(C) On the other hand, in Japan’s relations with the Soviet Union while the former holding the position of the “victim,” the national interest of Japan during the Cold War appeared by emphasizing its anger as the “victim” and the most steady position of “immediate restoration of the four islands” and “economic cooperation after resolving the territorial issues (problem of entrance).” However, as Chief Secretary Gorbachev appeared in 1985, he softened the position of the Soviet Union as the “perpetrator” and began proposing “new thought diplomacy” to the effect of non-military force and international cooperation in the international society. Within the Japanese government, too, there surfaced a view that it may be all right to resolve the territorial problems by mutual compromise. This move was significantly held up due to the refusal of the secret proposal on the Russian side (1992) after the establishment of the Russian Federation and the stalling of the Irkutsk agreement (2001) after the appearance of President Putin. However, the efforts at resolving the territorial issues between Russia and Japan by mutual comprise (draw), while facing China’s conspicuous appearance, continues.
The correspondence of the Japanese government to “reconciliation”
Between the Japanese government and Japanese people who finished the processing of the agreement, they both continued to diligently think and speak about how to recognize the problem of “responsibility of the perpetrator” over seventy years following the defeat in the war.
Notwithstanding, the historical recognition problems, from one perspective, seem to be giving rise to a dispute between Japan and China as well as Japan and South Korea on the worst level in history. What are the particulars of it and what is the position of the Japanese government today?
In postwar Japan, it went from defeat to occupation, and after a conviction in the Tokyo Trial and the acceptance of the sentence upon Article 11 in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, (1) strict discussions took place to request the dignity of soul as a nation between “rightists” attempting to reconstruct by standing in the position of prewar Japan’s honor and “leftists” claiming the need to re-examine the history of offense toward Asia.
(2) Upon the statement by Prime Minister in 1995 (in other words the “Murayama Statement”), it somehow reached one common conclusion. From the perspective of domestic politics, there is a view that the Murayama Statement was born from the unusual combination of Prime Minister from the Social Democratic Party and a Cabinet member by the member of the Liberal Democratic Party. This is all the more reason that this statement, as a shared opinion between the “rightists” and the “leftists,” constructed an important foundation of Japan’s historical recognition issues.
(3) The Murayama Statement served as a framework for all the negotiations with the theme of historical reconciliation between the Japanese government and related countries, such as China, South Korea, North Korea, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States over twenty years from 1995 to 2015. Anyone who has experience working for issues related to historical recognition in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is well aware as to why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot have a half-hearted attitude toward the Murayama Statement.
I myself was next to the minister in position at the Russian Embassy in Japan when the Murayama Statement developed in August 1995. Having “colonialism” and “invasion” as keywords, I read the Statement that demonstrated “poignant reflection and an apology from the bottom of the heart” and contributed a purport of “this represents bravery and it is Russia that should show bravery to Japan next” to the weekly magazine well sold in Russia then.
(4) For this reason, I followed with great interest to see what the content of the Abe Statement, to be presented at the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, would be on August 14, 2015. Prime Minister Abe openly criticized the tendency to use the word “invasion” after the Murayama Statement. As the day of the presentation drew near, what to succeed and what not to succeed became obscure while claiming to “take over [the position of successive cabinets] as a whole.”
After gazing at the presentation of the Statement on the home TV, I felt relieved. The Statement succeeded the humble attitude toward the direct viewing of history as the perpetrator and the recognition of responsibility, which was the most important point raised by the Murayama Statement. I would like to raise and analyze two most important positions in the Statement.
Incidents, invasions, and wars. Threats and exercise of military force in any form should never be employed again as a means to resolve international conflict. We must create a world where we part permanently from colonial rule and respect the self-determination of all nations. With the sense of deep repentance for the great war, our country swore as such… Our country continued to express poignant reflection and the sincerest apologies for our conduct during the great war… This position of successive cabinets will be unwavering from now on as well.
This first part can generally be regarded as the part that succeeded the Murayama Statement. Key is “poignant reflection and the sincerest apologies” and the point of expressing that “[t]his position of successive cabinets will be unwavering from now on as well.”
As a matter of course, what this is stating is the “conduct during the great war.” “Invasion” and “colonialism” were stated in relation to it, but strictly speaking, how it relates to the “conduct during the great war” is unclear.
By implying that that it does not go into the exact historical phenomena, this attitude shares commonality with the Murayama Statement. The biggest criticism by the “leftists” toward Murayama Statement was that the terms, “colonialism” and “invasion,” were doubtlessly used, but it did not mention where they were used against. Moreover, “invasion” used here and its relationship with the term of international law, “invasion,” used in the Tribunal for the Far East is ambiguous.
The Murayama Statement is neither legal nor historical and told a general and intuitive content that many Japanese people could understand and sympathize with. Isn’t this why it functioned as a consensus among entire citizens afterwards? I attempted to explain this by comparing Karl Jaspers in the background of Weizsäcker to Suzuki Daisetsu, who is the origin of Japanese ideas, in the background of the Murayama Statement. Please refer to my book, Rekishininshiki wo Toinaosu (Chapter 4, “Chūgoku no Baai.” Tokyo: Kadokawa Shinsho, 2013).
(5) Another reason that the Abe Statement will be a discourse to be succeeded is because he uses an entirely distinctive perspective and opening from the Murayama Statement that many Japanese will likely accept. This is as follows:
The generation born in postwar Japan now occupies eighty percent of the population. We must not make our children, their offspring, and children in the generation after that, with no connection to that war, carry the fate of continuing to apologize. However, we, Japanese, must still directly face the history of the past regardless of generation. We carry the responsibility of succeeding the past and passing it to the future with a humble mind.
This part of the first half is widely known. It indicates that younger generations, who will be born to have no connection to the war, must not be given the fate to conduct an apology. Abe received internal and external attention from the time of the presentation. Japan’s “rightists” appraised it by saying, “you did well,” and “leftists” and historical liberals overseas strongly criticized the irresponsibility of Prime Minister Abe toward history.
What is truly peculiar is the reference in the second half is not good at all for either Japan’s “rightists” or “leftists.”
The reason, however, is extremely clear and simple. For the “rightists,” the second half denies their position that “the historical recognition issues about war responsibly have ended.” They do not wish to see such a position and thus rather cast it away without mentioning it. For the “leftists,” the claim to “succeed the past […] with a humble mind” is praiseworthy, and they must appraise Prime Minister Abe if they approve it. Because the “leftists” do not generally appraise the foreign and national security policies of Prime Minister Abe, they would, once again, rather forget this part completely without mentioning it.
The current conditions of “historical reconciliation” in China and South Korea
As stated in the beginning, Japan holds extremely difficult problems with South Korea and China over historical recognition today.
Following the Abe Statement in 2015, the Foreign Ministers of Japan and South Korea reached an epoch-making agreement on December 28 of the same year regarding the comfort women issues that had been known to be the largest pending issue of the moment. It seemed to have straightened the reconciliation between Japan and South Korea.
However, President Park Geun-hye who actualized this agreement was prosecuted with impeachment due to the Choi Soon-sil scandal and dismissed in March 2017. President Mun Jae-in was selected as the successor in May, though he did not request a re-negotiation and took the position of “victim-centrism” as the root of his policy. It is uncertain how this position will take form in the future.
The forced labor issue is starting to manifest during this time. The petty bench of the Supreme Court in South Korea presented a view on December 5th that the previous forced labor issue had not been resolved in the 1965 normalization treaty, and the problem has currently been re–appealed at the grand bench of the Supreme Court.
The Mun Jae-in regime is in the direct line of descendent from the Roh Moo-hyun regime and receives steady support from the legal circles that hold the thought of ideological, legal principle–like anti-imperialism. There is a possibility that many Japanese businesses including Nippon Steel Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will receive a conviction at some point in 2018.
Its relations with China over historical recognition is more complicated. The historical recognition problems between Japan and China surround two things: the Yasukuni Shrine visit and the Senkaku Islands dispute that has already been problematized historically. However, Chinese history vs. Japan’s encircling net is vastly widening and deepening in the following ways: the establishment of “the Center for the Tokyo Trial Studies” at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2011; the registration of the Nanjing Massacre in the 2015 Memory of the World; and the establishment of “the Chinese Comfort Women Museum” at Shanghai Normal University in 2016. Triggered by the economic cooperation of “the Belt and Road Initiative” in 2017, the Abe and Xi Jinping talk occurred twice this year and Premier Li Keqiang visited Japan in May 2018. The dialogue between Japan and China is thus making progress. However, if the base of the relations between the two countries begins to crumble, there is a vulnerability that the versatile historical recognition issues might emit fire.
The present historical recognition issues between Japan and South Korea and Japan and China seem to have transcended the level of conflict over “to what extent the counterpart, who is the perpetrator, apologized in a manner that I, the victim, can be convinced” and “to what extent I, the perpetrator, must apologize to convince the counterpart who is the victim” between the “victims” and the “perpetrator.” It seems the issues are thrown in the whirl of the conflict over the national interest of each country and of the conflict that transcended the moral and ethical viewpoint toward history at the root.
How does one, as Japan, deal with historical recognition issues themselves in such a difficult context?
Firstly, what is most essential regarding the issues proposed by South Korea and China is for Japan to stand in an immobile posture toward the historical recognition issues and to adhere to it gently.
Secondly, what is the immobile posture? Doesn’t it mean to accept the undeniable position of the “perpetrator” and to solemnly convey that it cannot accept the criticism against reality and inordinate requests while standing in the humility emitted from that position?
Thirdly, what can the government depend such a position on? Needless to say, isn’t the position of “succeeding the past […] with a humble mind” in the Abe Statement to be Japan’s position for its best and strongest history from now on?
Lastly, “succeeding the past […] with a humble mind” is not only the task of the prime minister and the government, but it is a matter that every single citizen should regard as a task for him/herself.
The aims of “reconciliation studies”
What is stated above is what the author has generally thought from the perspective of “reconciliation.” It is basically the thought to distinguish the roles of the war between “victims” and “perpetrators” and where “reconciliation” is accomplished by the apology of the “perpetrators” and the forgiveness by the victims. In the real world, this structure is transformed in various ways due to the factor of the “power” arisen from the interest of one’s country. However, the author has thought of this as the basis.
Now, what is the structure that stands by “reconciliation studies”? As a starting point of the basic structure of “reconciliation studies,” Professor Asano Toyomi proposes the following “three principles of reconciliation:”
As a place where the three principles can materialize, he claims that “the common recognition of social functions of memory, justice, and emotions that enable the creation of a nation, and a discussion on historical facts based on the three principles upon this common recognition need to take place while maintaining some sort of equilibrium. He states that it is then necessary to elevate to a discussion that can give rise to new morals, courtesy, and norms that will be the foundation of the mutual relations of nations.”
This is an extremely interesting suggestion. However, thinking of the conflict over “reconciliation” that the author has been involved in thus far, I brooded over whether this approach of “reconciliation” can truly be accomplished in East Asia today.
Specifically, isn’t the idea of “justice exist[ing] in several forms” the most difficult to be accepted by China and South Korea who stand in the position of “victims” amidst the conflict over reconciliation? As one example, I would like to consider “the Nanjing Massacre.”
The Nanjing Massacre occurred in December 1937. This is a typical example of atrocity committed by the Japanese soldiers at the Tokyo Trial. This was raised as a central dispute of historical recognition in Japan, along with the Tokyo Trial dispute in the 1980s. However, this controversy was reignited by the Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang in 1997. It was then registered in the Memory of the World in October 2015 as proposed by China, and the dispute has not been concluded yet.
Justice seen by China claims that “300,000 slaughtered” displayed at “the Nanjing Museum” constructed in Nanjing is closest to the fact. On the other hand, tenacious justice seen by the “rightists” in Japan claims that “the massacre theory” is a fabrication by the Communist Party and collaborators of the west who support it. In other words, they hold the view that “the Nanjing Massacre” did not exist. As the author sees it, the possibly of people, who believe either theory, enjoying the viewpoint of “justice exist[ing] in several forms” is extremely slight.
However, there is another justice here, for example. “Kaikosha,” a friendship group of the executive of the former army as well as the Ground and the Air Self-Defense Force, took a decision to conduct investigations on its own when various theories regarding the Nanjing Massacre were brilliantly reported in Japan in the early 1980s. It enforced data collections and investigations from October 1983, and justice indicated in the conclusion documents published in the organ, Kaikō (March 1985), is as follows (main point):
“At least 3,000 people is tremendously a large number, let alone 13,000. We commenced the compilation of history for this war history while preparing for the fact that the Japanese army was not innocent. However, we cannot help but feel grief with this enormous number. Regardless of the real state of affairs and psychology on the battlefield, this are no words of defense for this high-throughput. As people who are tied to the former Japanese army, the only thing we can do is to deeply apologize to Chinese people.”
In the author’s dialogues with Chinese people until today regarding the Nanjing Massacre, I presented the justice indicated by ‘Kaikosha’ at this point as my own justice and as the justice in the hearts of many Japanese people, as I see it. I do not recall receiving a counterargument from the Chinese side.
If the diversity of justice can be accepted, I do not think it is difficult to “persuade other nations to bring national emotions closer.” It must be possible to patiently persuade the other side upon drawing an auxiliary line called “bring[ing] national emotions” for the justice one believes.
I do not think it is difficult at all “to [spread] the respect for individuals to […] groups,” either. When standing in the position of justice one believes, there must be someone who deserves respect as a human regardless of whether it is someone in the opposing country, his/her country, or third country. It must be possible to draw the auxiliary line to spread the respect for that person to that for groups.
Can “reconciliation studies” serve as a guideline to resolve the problems of “reconciliation”?
I believe it can.
If the ideas of the above-mentioned three justices surrounding the Nanjing Massacre are accomplished, I believe it directly indicates that multiple ideas about justice can be accomplished.
Furthermore, where is the idea of “accepting the diversity of justice” born?
We must of course carefully consider what our justice is. To think about multiple justices means that we must begin by pondering over what justice, suggested by the counterpart, is by standing in their position. Essential understanding for the positions of at least two justices is born here. Among the understanding for the two positions, a third justice, or in other words the justice accepted by us and the counterpart, might be born.
If we think in this way, “to carefully consider the justice suggested by the counterpart” must be the starting point of “reconciliation studies.”
The author has stated the significance of “succeeding the past […] with a humble mind,” which can be said the core of the Abe Statement, when taking an attitude toward the historical recognition between Japan and China, South Korea, and the world. The “humility” mentioned here starts by listening to the counterpart and attempting to understand his/her position, idea, and feeling. This is the same as “carefully consider[ing] the justice suggested by the counterpart.”
Doesn’t the request for the highest peak of “humility” attained by Japan today for the act of “reconciliation” coincide with the starting point for accomplishing “reconciliation studies”?
The overview of this report is published in Waseda Asia Review, no. 21 (2019).