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2010年8月16日 (月)

終戦の日 平和な未来を築く思い新たに

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 16, 2010)
Renewing our pledge for peace in the future
終戦の日 平和な未来を築く思い新たに(8月15日付・読売社説)

Once again, Aug. 15 has arrived. It is the day on which the nation commemorates its war dead and renews its pledge for peace.

Sixty-five years have passed since the end of World War II. However, wars and regional conflicts continue around the world despite efforts by the United Nations and others for nuclear disarmament and peace negotiations. We have yet to see a clear path to global peace.

Looking back on the end of the war in the summer of 1945 means reflecting on the origins of postwar Japan, which pledged to follow the path of international cooperation.

Today, the idea that the end of the war on Aug. 15 brought immediate peace to people's lives seems to have taken root in society.

Last-minute aggression

However, the Soviet troops that had invaded Japanese-held Manchuria in northeastern China just a week earlier on Aug. 9, in violation of a neutrality pact with Japan, continued their combat operations even after Aug. 15.

On Aug. 18, Soviet troops landed on Shumushu Island, the northernmost island in the Chishima group of islets, turning the island into a fierce battlefield between a garrison of the Imperial Japanese Army and the Soviet forces. Author Jiro Asada recently published a novel based on the battle, titled "Owarazaru Natsu" (Never-ending summer). The work helped the incident become more widely known to the public.

In Maokacho, a town in Sakhalin under Japanese rule, nine female telephone operators, who stayed on until the bitter end to maintain communications, killed themselves. A film called "Hyosetsu no Mon" (Gate of ice and snow), which is based on the tragedy and takes its title from the name of a monument in Hokkaido, has just been rereleased for the first time in 36 years.

Under international law, Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers on Sept. 2, 1945, with a signing ceremony aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. However, U.S. forces and most others stopped their attacks against Japan immediately after the Japanese government expressed its intention to accept the Potsdam Declaration on Aug. 14.

However, the Soviet troops continued their invasion and occupied four islands off Hokkaido, including Kunashiri Island, that are historically an integral part of Japan.

About 600,000 Japanese officers, soldiers and others were captured and sent to concentration camps in Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union as prisoners of war and forced to engage in harsh labor. About 60,000 of them are believed to have died in concentration camps due to hunger and cold.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1993 offered an apology for the detention in Siberia, calling it an "inhumane" act.

Last month, however, Russia designated Sept. 2 as the anniversary of the end of World War II, effectively stipulating it as the day the former Soviet Union triumphed over Japan. The Russian move is seen as a response to Japan's demand that Russia return the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

In light of such a move, Japan must be persistent in demanding that Russia return the islands.

Cruel atomic bombings

Another tragedy in the summer in 1945 was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

U.S. President Harry Truman insisted that the U.S. government had no choice other than dropping the atomic bombs on the two cities because Japan had refused to accept the Potsdam Declaration, which demanded unconditional surrender. However, the declaration was issued on July 26, the day after the president issued an order to drop the bombs.

Yet, if the Japanese government had announced its intention to accept the declaration immediately after the announcement, it might have been possible to avoid the bombings. The then Japanese leaders wasted time, pinning too much hope on the possibility of Soviet mediations for peace.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos became the first official U.S. representative to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 this year. However, some in the United States criticized his attendance at the event, saying it could be interpreted as an "unsaid apology."

For the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who said the United States has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation ever to have used a nuclear weapon, it must have been a delicate decision.

There are strong arguments in the United States that the dropping of the atomic bombs saved the lives of many Americans by avoiding battles on mainland Japan.

However, the use of such cruel weapons deprived more than 200,000 citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of their lives. The gravity of this fact cannot be erased.

Remember and reflect

Meanwhile, if Japan does not openly admit its own mistakes of the past and reflect on them, the country will not be able to win the confidence of the international community.

Japan misunderstood the world situation of the time and entered a reckless war while becoming increasingly isolated in the international community. It brought immense tragedy to the peoples of China and other East Asian countries.

In 2005, taking the opportunity of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, The Yomiuri Shimbun reexamined who was responsible for the Showa War.

(The Yomiuri coined the term "Showa War" in connection with its war responsibility series to describe the period of conflict lasting from the Manchurian Incident of 1931 to the end of World War II in 1945.)

As a result, many Class-A war criminals, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who were tried at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (also called the Tokyo Trial), were among those found to bear responsibility for the Showa War.

This year's Aug. 15 is the first time for the anniversary of the end of the war to be observed by a Democratic Party of Japan-led administration. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and all his Cabinet members were expected to shun the controversial visits to Yasukuni Shrine that have been made by some of their predecessors.

Kan said that he would not visit the Shinto shrine during his term of office, as Class-A war criminals are enshrined there.

In its policy platform announced last year, the DPJ expressed its intention to tackle the building of a new national memorial facility for the war dead. Full-scale discussion should begin with the aim of building a permanent facility where anyone can pay memorial tribute to the war dead without being troubled in mind.

Also this year, the government was expected to hold its annual ceremony Sunday at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward to mourn the nation's war dead. Although years have passed, the war remains deep in the memories of the Japanese people, which are handed down from generation to generation.

We hope that Aug. 15 will be a day to renew our determination to take assertive steps for world peace, seeking international cooperation and taking history into account.

By doing so, we would surely carry out the wishes of those who died in the war.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2010)
(2010年8月15日01時10分  読売新聞)


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