Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ambassador Fujisaki Does the Unexpected

Holy [expletive deleted].

Japan Apologizes for Bataan Death March

The Japanese ambassador to the United States apologized in person today to the 73 surviving POWs of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in April 1942 during World War II.

We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan peninsula the Corregidor Island, Philippines and other places," Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said at the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor POWs of the Japanese during World War II.

Sixty-seven years after the Japanese captured and force-marched 12,000 Americans and 68,000 Philippines from the island of Corregidor to northern Luzon, denying them food and water, and killing the stragglers, the country apologized.

The ambassador said he was speaking for the government of Japan as he apologized...
I was sure that Dr. Tenney would not live to see this day. What a better world it would be if we all had his sense of honor, his humanity and his tenacity. All power to him and the others who fought for so long for such a minor gesture of decency.

Ambassador Fujisaki's astonishing act -- which he cannot have done without clearance -- indicates that forces within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have figured out that the "it would be easier for Japan to contribute more to the Alliance if somebody could run interference on efforts to confront wartime reconciliation issues" quid pro quo trumpeted by the Fantabulist Right and their allies was no longer operative or an option. Somebody important figured out that in this instance the Government of Japan cannot rely on the U.S. government or anyone else to "understand" a problem away.

Oh frabjous day so long in gestation!

Later - Oh wait. Over at the Japan-China Reconciliation blog, MKS is saying that ABC News got its facts wrong.

Even later - The Nikkei Online, in a report published three weeks ago, says that the apology is official.

Even later - TBS has chimed in with a report stating that Ambassador Fujisaki's apology was "public" (kōshikiteki) but without saying as the Nikkei did that the apology was "by the Government of Japan through the Ambassador to the U.S." (nihon seifu ga chūbei taishi wo tsuji). The TBS account fails to nail down the niggling but significant loose end of whether or not the Ambassador could deliver a apology that is public but nevertheless not a policy statement of the GOJ.


Anonymous said...

Can you explain to us what exactly is the significance of what you are pointing out between public and official policy? What would make it official policy? Why is this even important?

Did then the Ambassador apologize? That blog you mentioned seems to be splitting hairs as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I'm being too cynical in suggesting that this apology, significant though it may be, is nakedly disingenuous and self-interested. It is, in other words, a purely political gesture, not one of atonement. If Japan was truly interested in apologizing and making amends, it wouldn't start by apologizing to the most powerful nation in the world--it's second largest trading partner and military ally--but to the Philippines, where 68k of the nearly 80k victims of Bataan were from. But I suppose you have to start somewhere.

FSN said...

we've posted a radio interview on this story to that is attracting a good deal of interest - we'd love to hear your readers' comments on it.