Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Abe trampling history

By Martin sieff (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-19 07:05

Time usually heals historical wounds. This lesson has been lost on Japan's current leadership, and the dangers it poses for the future of the country are enormous.

Japan never went through the wrenching, effective process of facing up to the terrible crimes its armed forces committed before and during World War II the way Germany did. For more than half a century, Japanese leaders generally kept a low profile in their public statements and carefully sought to avoid offending China, the Republic of Korea and other Asian countries that had been occupied or ravaged by Japanese forces during and before WWII.

Yet now, more than 75 years after the Imperial Japanese Army slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians in its drive to Nanjing, we find the current government and major institutions of Japan seeking to deny and suppress the raw, unbending facts of history.

What is, perhaps, most unsettling for a country that has presented itself for more than six decades as Northeast Asia's poster democracy is the move toward the equivalent of Holocaust denial. Japan refuses to even admit the nature, let alone scale, of its war crimes during WWII, and that refusal has now spread beyond the government to the country's most important broadcasting organization.

On Feb 7, Naoki Hyakuta, one of the 12 governors on the board of the Japanese government-owned NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), accused the United States of inventing allegations to disguise its own war crimes - such as the firebombing of Tokyo and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A week earlier, NHK's new chairman, Katsuto Momii, had said it was "only natural" for NHK to follow and support the Japanese government's positions on territorial disputes with other countries. "When the government says 'left' we can't say 'right'," he said. He even defended Japan's wartime system of sex slaves, notorious throughout Asia.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally picked Momii to run NHK and set its editorial tone. He also picked another governor, Michiko Hasegawa, after she had written an article praising a postwar militarism fanatic who committed ritual suicide in 1993 in protest against the liberal Asahi Shimbun's criticism of his right-wing group outside the newspaper's offices. "There could be no better offering," she wrote.

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