Ending East Asia's History Wars(Link)
TOKYO – Georges Clemenceau, who, as France's prime minister, led his country to victory in World War I, famously said that "war is too important to be left to the generals." Japan is now discovering that history is too important to be left to newspaper editors.
In the 1990s, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun caused a firestorm at home and in South Korea by publishing a series of articles, based upon testimony by the former Japanese soldier Seiji Yoshida, on "comfort women" – Koreans forced to provide sexual services to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Asahi has now admitted that the soldier's confessions were unfounded, and has disavowed the core supporting evidence for the articles.
That retraction appears to be causing as much embarrassment – and diplomatic vitriol – in Japan and South Korea today as the original series did. But, at a time when both countries cannot afford to permit partisan or sloppy abuses of history to roil their bilateral relations, Asahi's careless work has turned out to be more than abysmal journalism; it has introduced a dangerous element into regional diplomacy.
Japan and South Korea need to take responsibility for the future, not obsess about the past. A recent Japanese government white paper called South Korea the country "that shares the closest relationship with Japan historically and in areas such as economy and culture." No doubt, many, if not most, South Korean foreign-policy experts and strategists share that sentiment. But it will take committed leadership to transcend the history wars and tap the full potential of Japanese-Korean cooperation, something that both countries' key ally, the United States, strongly desires, as it seeks to draw China into a lasting and peaceful Asian order.
For too long, intemperate historical debates – often driven by biased newspaper accounts – have poisoned bilateral relations. Now, as another war of words heats up, Japanese and South Korean leaders need to step back, recognize where the real interests of their people lie, both today and in the future, and calmly begin to take the measures required to ensure durable reconciliation.
Bravo, Koike-sensei, bravo. I have not seen such breath-taking leaps -- albeit from non-sequitur to false congruence to unsupported assumption to evasion of responsibility, and not from the flying trapeze -- since I went and saw the Bolshoi Circus this summer at Jingu.
My favorite, favorite, favorite line in the whole piece, however, is this one:
Of course, given that Japan and Korea have not fought a series of wars against each other, their relationship is not the same as that between Germany and France.Lety us put aside the fact that there are hundreds of years of military conflicts between Korean and Japanese, including some full scale invasions, occupations and colonial rule. It is the "Of course" that gets me, like I am supposed to be able to agree with her a priori.