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2009年8月15日 (土)

終戦の日 追悼めぐる論議を深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 15, 2009)
Time to discuss how to commemorate war dead
終戦の日 追悼めぐる論議を深めよ(8月15日付・読売社説)

Whenever we ponder on those
who dedicated their lives
for the cause of our nation,
our heart aches with deep emotion
 「くにのためいのちささげし ひとびとの ことをおもへば むねせまりくる」

This poem by Emperor Showa (1926-1989) is inscribed on the monument to the memory of the war dead at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Once again, the day has arrived on which the nation commemorates the end of World War II. The government will host a memorial service for the war dead at Nippon Budokan hall, which is close to the national cemetery.

In an ordinary year, the ceremony is attended by the Emperor and Empress as well as the heads of the three branches of state power: the heads of both houses of the Diet, the prime minister and the Supreme Court chief justice. In this regard, it is the nation's most solemn event.
This year, however, the House of Representatives speaker will not attend because the lower house has been dissolved ahead of the upcoming general election.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II. The war broke out with the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Germany had concluded a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union only a week earlier on Aug. 23.

Soon after, Soviet forces invaded Poland and annexed three Baltic states. The three states only regained their independence shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In July, the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe adopted a resolution calling for the anniversary of the day the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was concluded to be a day of remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The session was held in Lithuania--one of the Baltic states that came under Soviet control.


Diplomatic blunders

During the war years, Japan repeatedly made diplomatic blunders by making approaches to Germany and the Soviet Union.

The Imperial Japanese Army initially believed it could keep the Soviet Union in check by forming an alliance with Germany. The signing of the nonaggression treaty between those two countries, however, stunned the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kiichiro Hiranuma, which resigned en masse after issuing a statement that said, "Europe's heaven and earth are complicated and inscrutable."

Later, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe concluded the Tripartite Alliance with Germany and Italy as well as the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact. Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka apparently thought the impasse in Japan-U.S. relations could be broken by balancing against Britain and the United States by strengthening cooperation among four countries--Japan, Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union.

But Matsuoka's plan was scuttled by the outbreak of hostilities between the Soviet Union and Germany. The next cabinet, that of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, decided to go to war with the United States--a reckless undertaking on Japan's part.

As the conflict drew closer to its end, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki asked the Soviet Union to broker a deal with the Allies to end the war. However, the Soviet Union turned its back on the neutrality pact with Japan and invaded Manchuria (what is now northeastern China). As a result, 575,000 Japanese officers and soldiers were captured and detained in Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union. An estimated 55,000 Japanese are believed to have died in the Soviet Union after the war.

A massive amount of documents detailing the Japanese detainees has recently been discovered at a Russian archive. We hope these documents will help identify the Japanese who died in Soviet detention.

Looking back, it is clear that Japanese leaders grossly misinterpreted what was happening on the international stage.

The House of Representatives election to choose the leaders who will be tasked with navigating Japan through uncharted waters will be officially announced Tuesday, opening an 11-day campaign.

Both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan have mapped out policies they plan to implement should they hold the reins of government. The battle to woo voters will be fierce.


Grandfathers' experiences

The current state of affairs no doubt reminds many people of the grandfathers of Prime Minister Taro Aso and DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama.

Aso's grandfather, former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, served as ambassador to Britain before the war and was a strong proponent of closer ties with Britain and the United States. Yoshida, who engaged with Konoe and other like-minded people in a futile effort to bring the fighting to an end in the closing months of World War II, was arrested by military police and detained for 40 days.
Yoshida fell ill after being released. The war ended while he was recuperating in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Hatoyama's grandfather, former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, was a lawmaker focused on party politics who had served as education minister. Hatoyama clashed with Tojo and, as a result, he had to spend some time in seclusion at a villa in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. He listened to the radio broadcast in which Emperor Showa announced Japan's surrender while he was tucked away in Karuizawa.

While at his villa, Hatoyama regularly read a book written by Austro-Hungarian diplomat Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, who is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of European integration. The book stressed the need for "fraternal revolution." Hatoyama later translated the book under the title of "Jiyu to Jinsei" (Liberty and Life).


Lessons of history

What historical lessons can Aso and Hatoyama learn from the bitter experiences of their grandfathers?

Aso will observe the war anniversary for the first time since becoming prime minister. He has said he will not visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo because it would be wrong to make "the people who sacrificed their precious lives for the country" a matter of political contention.

Fourteen Class-A war criminals, including Tojo and Matsuoka, are enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine along with other war dead.

Some LDP members insist the Class-A war criminals must be enshrined elsewhere. Some other LDP members have advocated constructing a national memorial facility. However, the party has not formulated a united position on the matter.

Hatoyama said he would not visit Yasukuni should he become prime minister, and he would urge his cabinet ministers to refrain from going to the shrine. Hatoyama has suggested he favors establishing a national memorial facility for the war dead.

DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said he wants to have a group of experts discuss building a national facility, possibly making use of the Chidorigafuchi cemetery.

Emperor Showa expressed concern that the essence of Yasukuni Shrine, a resting place for the spirits of the nation's war dead, has been distorted with the enshrinement of the Class-A war criminals.

Yasukuni Shrine insists the teachings of Shintoism prevent it from separating the war criminals from the shrine.

However, even if Yasukuni Shrine refuses to separately enshrine the Class-A war criminals, discussions about establishing a national facility will gain momentum regardless of the outcome of this month's general election.

It is time to deepen national-level discussions on the best way to pay tribute to the people who sacrificed their lives for the country, and to settle this issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2009)
(2009年8月15日01時23分  読売新聞)


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