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Opportunity for Tokyo to reflect on its actions: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-11-30 21:06

On the morning of August 6, 1945, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber of the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Three days later, the US dropped another atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki.

These were the first, and so far only, times nuclear weapons have been used in warfare. To those who defend the US' actions, the bombs were instrumental to securing Japan's unconditional surrender and the subsequent ending of World War II. Those who decry their use point to the immeasurable human suffering they caused. In Hiroshima, an estimated 80,000 people were killed as a direct result of the blast, and at least another 60,000 died by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout. At least, 70,000 are believed to have been killed in the Nagasaki bombing.

For decades, the Genbaku Dome, or Hiroshima Peace Memorial, and the hibakusha, the surviving victims of the atomic bombings, have been reminders of the devastating potentials of nuclear weapons. Japan's Education Ministry on Tuesday announced it would recommend over 1,500 photographs and two videos taken after the bombing of Hiroshima for inclusion in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

In a joint statement, the institutions that submitted the application said they "expect primary documents that transmit the horrors of war and the use of atomic weapons will be recognized throughout the world and used by various governments and citizens as they work toward never repeating such a mistake".

It is up to the UNESCO Executive Board to decide whether these documents should be admitted into the Memory of the World Register in 2025, which would mark the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the two Japanese cities.

Our collective memory needs such a reminder. With talk of the use of nuclear weapons tossed about recently in a seeming game of bluff and dare and some countries trying to neuter the nuclear nonproliferation regime, such a record testifying to the pressing need for nuclear arms control, if not complete elimination of such weapons of mass destruction, seems especially timely.

But the Japanese government's push for the UNESCO Memory of the World Register to include those documents, worthwhile though it is, rings with suspicions of virtue signaling, at least to its neighbors, in light of some of its own actions.

After all, while urging the rest of the world to remember the Japanese people's suffering as victims of the nuclear attacks, the Japanese government has generally been mute about the ordeals Japanese aggressors imposed on their victims during the same war. Until now, the Japanese government has yet to offer a formal apology to the victims, and Japanese politicians have made constant efforts to whitewash their country's WWII atrocities.

More recently, the Japanese move to release nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean in open disregard of neighboring countries' concerns has raised further questions about the sanitized impression they want future generations to have of the country.

With the horrific experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to reflect on, Japanese politicians should be as aware as anyone of the damaging potential of nuclear contamination. Instead, they have turned a deaf ear to neighboring countries' pleas for prudence.

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