Leave the Past Behind
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
Leave the Past Behind
Bill Powell, TimeAsia
After more than a year, on Sunday 21st, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao met in Santiago, Chile, following the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
As expected, and fueled by the poor outcome of the meeting, media flocked on the subject of Prime Minister's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Many media reports cited the comment by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, saying "President Hu Jintao pointed out in the most explicit terms that the crux of the problem in the political relations between China and Japan is the Japanese government leader's paying homage to the Yasukuni Shrine."
Mr Koizumi's response was reported with less significance, if at all, where he reportedly replied "I visit there (the Shrine) in order to honor those who lost their lives against their will," and added that the visits are to pray for peace and that Japan should never go to war again, while stopping short of offering to quit the visits to the Shrine in the future.
There are in fact many in Japan who also, as if to follow the Chinese leaders, denounce visits by big-names especially politicians to the Shrine, but for most of the people in Japan, the subject itself is disenchanting, partly because outsiders have been making so much noise about it.
While most of the Japanese people realize and acknowledge that there had been unfortunate incidents on the way to, and during the WWII, they are puzzled by why China, and the whole bunch of media in and out of Japan, are making so much fuss over the issue. They are also skeptical when told that the Prime Minister's visit to the shrine is the sole obstacle and stopping it would suddenly solve every difference of view between Japan and China.
The article introduced above is written by a reporter well versed in East Asian affairs. It carries a long sub-title, "It's time for China and Japan to stop bickering about history," and, except perhaps for certain details, generally reflects the sentiment of the majority of Japanese people. The article complains to both Japanese and Chinese governments saying, "allowing the war to dominate so much of the public discourse between these two governments -- obviously the two most important countries in East Asia -- has gone beyond mindless." And the essence of the article is summarized in the last sentence. "Gents (Japan and China), seriously, here's hoping that whenever and wherever you meet, you do yourselves and everyone else a favor -- and don't just talk about the war."
It has been reported that when Mr Koizumi brought out the issue of the recent intrusion into Japanese waters by a Chinese nuclear submarine, Mr Hu did not respond, and instead, said, "Japan and China should make efforts to resolve several pending issues and take a broader view of advancing bilateral relations."
Very thoughtful words, indeed. But wouldn't common sense dictate such expression should be used when relieving the counterpart of any accusations, rather than demanding the counterpart to forgive the speaker's mischief, or a crime?