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2012年8月16日 (木)

8月15日 「史実」の国際理解を広げたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 16, 2012)
Govt must explain historical facts to the rest of the world
8月15日 「史実」の国際理解を広げたい(8月15日付・読売社説)


Sixty-seven years have passed since then. Today marks the anniversary of the end of World War II for Japan. This is a day to remember the war dead who laid the foundation for Japan's postwar prosperity.

But almost as if to coincide with this day, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak brazenly visited the Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture without any hesitation. We consider his visit extremely regrettable.

Why did South Korea make such an outrageous move at this particular time?

Lee flaunted Seoul's effective control of the islets over which Japan and South Korea remain locked in a standoff over territorial rights. He also referred to the issue of the so-called wartime comfort women. He asserted that Japan has failed to show sincerity on the issue, although it has been raised during a summit meeting with the Japanese prime minister.


Anti-Japan feeling whipped up

It is generally believed that Lee, who has seen his influence wane as his term as president draws to a close, was attempting to show his "achievement" as the first South Korean head of state to visit the Takeshima islands.

Deep-rooted anti-Japan sentiment remains in South Korea, which was once under Japan's colonial rule. Lee's actions also can be perceived as populism designed to tap that national sentiment.

During the London Olympics, a South Korean soccer player held up a paper sign reading "Dokdo is our land" while celebrating his team's win over Japan in the third-place playoff. The Takeshima islands are called Dokdo in South Korea. The player's act was blatantly a political activity at a games venue, which is prohibited by the Olympic Charter.

There is no doubt that Lee's recent actions have recklessly whipped up nationalism among the South Korean people.

Japan-South Korea relations, which appear to be sound, are actually fragile and could suddenly collapse when issues of historical perceptions become politicized. Both sides must make efforts to overcome differences in their perceptions of history and build a constructive relationship.

Meanwhile, South Korea has hosted a summit meeting of the Group of 20 major economies as well as the Nuclear Security Summit. The post of U.N. secretary general is held by a South Korean. That nation has produced many world-class companies, such as Samsung and Hyundai Motor Co., that rival Japanese companies.

Lee himself said Japan no longer wields the international influence it once did. It should be noted that Seoul apparently is attaching less importance to some aspects of its relations with Japan as a result of confidence bred by South Korea's rapid economic growth.

Japan intends to file a suit on the Takeshima issue with the International Court of Justice. At the same time, we believe the government should strongly urge Seoul to refrain from making further efforts to impose its illegal occupation of the islands.


Territorial dispute with Russia

A territorial dispute is also causing friction in Japan's relations with Russia.

In November 2010, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashiri--one of the four islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan but which have been held by Russia since the end of World War II. In July this year, Medvedev, this time as prime minister, conducted an inspection tour of the same island.

Moscow probably wants to demonstrate to people at home and overseas that Russia acquired the islands--the northern territories of Japan--as a result of the war and has been promoting development projects there on its own.

Moreover, in view of the fact that Russia's oil and natural gas development projects in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East have been proceeding steadily, Moscow apparently is telling Tokyo it will no longer need Japan's assistance in developing the four islands.

In fact, South Korean firms have taken part in development projects on Etorofu and Shikotan islands. If the situation continues like this, the "Russianization" of the northern territories will only advance further.

On the other hand, bolstering Japan-Russia relations will be indispensable in countering China, which has been increasing its presence through its growing economic and military might.

The government must rework its strategy for resolving the territorial dispute with Moscow from many angles.

Historical claims made by South Korea and Russia are being heard over the world. The Japanese government should handle these territorial issues with a stronger sense of urgency.

A cenotaph for the comfort women was installed at a public library in a small town near New York City in 2010. An inscription on the plaque reads: "In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan."

Korean-Americans have been promoting the movement to build such cenotaphs in various parts of the United States. The movement is apparently aimed at generating pressure on Japan from the United States.

The comfort women issue became more prominent following a statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993.


Kono's remarks problematic

His statement included a portion indicating as if the women were systematically and forcibly made comfort women by Japanese authorities at the time. This opened the door to greater misunderstanding on the issue. In the end, no documents that could prove there was any truth to what Kono had suggested have been found.

It has been widely publicized in the United States that Korean girls and women were abducted by the Japanese military and used as comfort women. Due to the existence of Kono's statement, the Japanese government cannot refute this effectively. This is extremely problematic.

Tokyo should thoroughly explain both at home and abroad the historical facts and background surrounding the Takeshima, northern territories and comfort women issues.

In August, when we remember the end of the war, it is essential to disseminate Japan's position on these issues to the international community in an effort to seek its understanding and support.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2012)
(2012年8月15日01時37分  読売新聞)


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