Saturday, April 16, 2005

Japan strongly protests new wave of demonstrations in China

A lot has been said and written on the Japan China
rivalry and antagonisms. Spring demonstrations in China
often happen while an agitated masses influenced by
China leadership strikes against the motto (campaign) of
the moment. Japanese government strongly protested on
Saturday a new wave of anti-Japan demonstrations in
China, saying Beijing should have prevented the
violence. «Even though information was available
beforehand to infer that there would be a demonstration,
nothing was done to prevent it and we strongly protest
to the Chinese government,» Japan's Foreign Ministry
said in a statement.

It denounced the «destructive and violent actions» of
the protesters and called anew for the Chinese
government to prevent a recurrence. Foreign Minister
Nobutaka Machimura was asked by reporters if he planned
to cancel a trip to Beijing on Sunday. «That option is
not out of the question, but at present we are
proceeding as planned,» Machimura was quoted as saying
by Akira Chiba, assistant press secretary at the
ministry. Anti-Japanese protests erupted Saturday in at
least three cities, including a demonstration by 20,000
people in Shanghai. Protesters last week damaged the
Japanese Embassy in Beijing and Japanese businesses, and
attacked three Japanese students. The tensions have been
fueled by lingering Chinese anger over Japan's wartime
aggression and anxieties at Tokyo's new military and
diplomatic ambitions, as well as a territorial dispute.

But most important is to try to analyze the contents of
both nations demands.


"... if we want Japan to change its behavior, we have to
spell out what is expected of it. At the same time, I
should add that these kinds of issues cannot be solved
at a single stroke. What the Koreans and Chinese are
demanding (to the extent that it has anything to do with
Japan, which is another story) is not simply a concrete
set of actions, but a change in what they perceive to be
Japanese attitudes, and that change in attitude cannot
be guaranteed by a single, visible set of actions at
point X, but has to be manifested by a change in
Japanese word and deed at points X, Y, Z and beyond.

And they want that change of attitude both because of
the very real, human desire to have those you perceive
having done you wrong to be sorry for what they did - to
undergo some form of spiritual penance - but because
they believe that only when the Japanese people and
government recognize that what they did is wrong and
illegitimate will the danger that they will revert to
the same pattern of behavior be reduced. That is why
people who have studied efforts at fostering
reconciliation stress that it is a process, not an
event. One that takes a long time to come to an end.

For the Japanese to be willing to engage in such a
process they will have to be given some assurance that
apologies, when offered, will be accepted by the Koreans
and the Chinese. That there will be some pay off in
terms of creating a smoother and more healthy
relationship for doing this very painful, politically
(and potentially financially) costly thing...

The Japanese feel that they have been trying to
apologize for a decade, largely in vain. The old trope
that the Japanese suffer form historical amnesia is,
while not quite an "urban myth," vastly exaggerated. ..

... I have not made a systematic study of Japanese
textbooks, but I have found some pretty good research
which shows that there is far more open discussion of
Japanese atrocities, especially since the 1970s, than
the Iris Chang line of argument claims. As a result, the
Japanese are suffering from a sort of "apology fatigue,"
which is being exploited by those in Japan who are dead
set opposed to making any sort of apology for the past
because it would be injurious to the development of a
health sense of Japanese patriotism.

In the past, I had been hopeful that reconciliation
could be achieved at least in the context of the
ROK-Japan relationship, if not the Sino-Japanese one. At
the same time, I felt that it would be better if the
United States did not get involved in mediating such
disputes. This is an affair that the Asian parties would
be better off dealing with on their own.

In addition, I have always felt that the US as well has
a lot of historical baggage (Hiroshima-Nagasaki, the
Taft-Katsura agreement, No Gun Ri, General "Howler"
Smith and the pacification of the Philippines, etc.) and
that we would not want to encourage making apologies for
past misconduct a generalized principle.

I think that passions are getting to the point, however,
where even minor disputes run the risk of getting out of
hand, where a downward spiral in terms of Japan's
relations with its neighbors is now becoming
conceivable, and that in the process US relations with
all its Asian partners could be damaged...

... Is there anything that the US can do on this issue?
Or should we just stand on the sidelines and watch this
sad, sad game of mutual recrimination play itself out,
whatever the consequence?"

Thomas Berger Boston University (NBR extract)

end of quotes

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