The Guardian 27 April, 2005
Japan sparks protests
in China, South Korea
The Japanese Government’s plans to change Japan’s “Peace Constitution” and open the way for the use of Japanese troops against other countries is a contributing factor to the massive anti-Japanese demonstrations in China and South Korea.
In addition, the publication of a history of Japan’s invasion of China, Korea and other countries which glosses over the brutality of Japanese occupation and the visit by Japan’s Prime Minister to a shrine in which Japan’s war criminals are commemorated are seen as a deliberate move by Japan’s conservative Government to create tension in the region. The fear and instability created would then be used to justify the proposed Constitutional change.
The Australian media is playing up every negative aspect of the situation and, without justification, alleging that China-Japan relations have sunk to their lowest level in 30 years.
The media has taken its cue from John Howard, who has already gone on record with talk of an Australian-Japanese and US alliance and encouraged Japan to make the Constitutional changes so that Japan can play a role in the world to which it is “entitled”.
Firm and conciliatory
However, the reports by China’s Xinhua news agency of last week’s meeting between the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers shows that China is both firm and conciliatory.
China’s Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, while saying that Japan should take “concrete actions” to face up to the history of the Japanese invasion of China, also stressed that the Chinese government and people attach great importance to the development of friendly and cooperative relations with Japan.
He told his Japanese guest that China hopes the two countries can co-exist peacefully, maintain friendship for generations to come, conduct co-operation on a mutually beneficial basis and seek common development.
He went on: “That will serve the long-term interests of the two countries as well as world peace, stability and development”.
Minister Li said that a correct view of history is a precondition for improving and developing China-Japan relations and that Japan should face up to and examine its history of invasion and stop doing things that would harm the feelings of the Chinese people.
Adhere to the spirit
Japan’s Foreign Minister Machimura Nobutaka responded by saying that the Japanese government will adhere to the spirit of “taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future” and develop relations with China from the viewpoint of the overall situation of bilateral ties.
He admitted that Japan’s invasion of China had brought great damage to the Chinese people and said that the Japanese side feels deep regret for that and once again expresses deep remorse and apology.
Japan has again pledged to support the principle of “one China” and that Japan would render no support to “Taiwanese independence”. If adhered to these pledges would prohibit any involvement by Japan in any development regarding the reunification of Taiwan with China.
Both Foreign Ministers agreed that Sino-Japanese relations are important to both and the two sides should handle the relationship from long-term and strategic perspectives.
However contradictory messages have since emerged with Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi extending an apology at the conference of heads of state on Asian and African leaders while, at the same time, a group of prominent Japanese politicians once again visited the shrine commemorating Japan’s war criminals.
Within Japan there is strong opposition to the proposal to remove the “Peace” clause (Article 9) from Japan’s Constitution.
The Japanese Communist Party is in the forefront of the campaign to stop the proposed change in the Constitution and is working with a number of other campaign organisations which have been set up with the same objective. The most recent organisation to join the campaign is one set up by public figures from Japan’s mass media. Journalists, TV personalities, scriptwriters, media poets, comic artists and others attended a meeting of 390 media figures.
A demonstration by 300 lawyers was held in Tokyo on April 6 to protest against the holding of a referendum which the government hopes will clear the way for the removal of Clause 9.
Fight wars abroad
Shii Kazuo, Japanese Communist Party Executive Committee Chair, said those pushing to revise the constitution want to turn Japan into a nation that “fights wars abroad.” He tied the effort to pressure from the United States, which is looking to keep a military foothold in Asia. “The move to revise Article 9 is closely connected with the rise of the glorification of Japan’s war of aggression”, Kazuo said. “Defending Article 9 is inseparable from efforts to defend human rights as well as democracy.”