In a few days, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe will be arriving in the U.S. on a state visit. He has been invited to speak to a Joint Session of Congress, a rare honor that should not be accorded to a Japanese prime minister of a nation that has not reconciled itself to its past. Instead, under Abe, it is rewriting and white washing Japanese history – particularly during World War II. This attempt to minimize Japanese atrocities committed during the war dishonors the sacrifice of our brave men and women who sacrificed their lives to liberate millions from Japanese oppression.
In many nations it is a crime to deny the European Holocaust that exterminated six million Jews. On the other side of the world during World War II, the Asian Holocaust perpetrated by the Japanese led to the slaughter of more than 20 million Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians. Recent Japanese textbooks denied the massacre of upward of 300,000 Chinese in the Rape of Nanking one of the worst atrocities in human history. What the textbook calls a mere “Incident” was chronicled by late San Francisco Bay area author Iris Chang, who laid out the torture, rape and murder of innocent civilians in such horrific detail that it is said to have had a role in Chang’s taking her own life. Japan under Abe is denying history instead of atoning for its actions.
Abe has rejected the incontrovertible fact of the Japanese enslavement during World War II of hundreds of thousands of women as sex slaves, most of them from Korea. In March 2007, in response to a United States Congress resolution by Silicon Valley-based congressman, Mike Honda, a Japanese-American, Abe denied any government coercion in the recruitment of “comfort women.” This is in line with a statement Abe made almost ten years before on the same issue, in which he voiced his opposition to the inclusion of the subject of military prostitution in several school textbooks. He denied any coercion in the “narrow” sense of the word. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese army’s involvement is documented in its own defense files.
Japan performed medical experiments on live ordinary civilians and POWs alike in places such as the infamous Unit 731 based in Harbin, Manchuria. Between 3,000 and 12,000 men, women and children died during these gruesome human experiments. Just last month Kyushu University, the former Kyoto Imperial University, acknowledged the live dissection of U.S. POWs when they were captured on May 5, 1945, after a B-29 was shot down.
Prime Minister Abe has visited the Yasukuni Shrine dedicated to Japanese war dead including Class A war criminals. Imagine the outrage that would ensue if Chancellor Merkel were to visit a museum honoring Nazis in Berlin including the remains of Hitler? Remember the controversy when President Reagan visited a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany when it was learned that SS troops were buried there? Abe stated his belief that Class A war criminals are not criminals under Japan’s domestic law. How can that be?
At the end of World War II, the U.S. was keen on confronting Russia in the new cold war by rebuilding Japan. We were also interested in Japanese knowledge of germ warfare. As a result, we pardoned many convicted war criminals including all 14 convicted medical staff at Kyushu University. And not only that, the head of Unit 731, General Ishii, and many of his assistants became part of Japan’s medical establishment for years after the war. Our government also set free Class A criminal Nobusuke Kishi, the Minister of Munitions responsible for using slave labor including our POWs. Kishi was the Japanese Albert Speer, Abe’s grandfather, and later a prime minister.
It was morally wrong to exonerate perpetrators of atrocities then, and it is morally wrong to honor a head of government now who refuses to acknowledge his nation’s murderous past. If the U.S. is to launch a” Pivot to Asia,” it will take more than repositioning our military forces. We must reset our moral compass if we want to earn the support of Asians in a region on the rise.
It is time for all Americans, not just Asian-Americans, who are concerned about Abe’s visit to make their voices heard. Korean-Americans and a veterans organization: American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society have set a good example.
Meanwhile, our Congress is conferring an honor that should never have been proffered.
Richard L King, Ph.D., is a retired investment banker and venture capitalist. He received his PhD in nuclear physics from New York University and also attended Stern Graduate School of Business at NYU. He was an instructor of Nuclear Physics at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY, a former Trustee of the China Institute, a former Member of the Science Advisory Board at NYU and a former Director of the Committee of 100. Originally from Shanghai, Dr. King is a grandson, on both sides of his family, of two of the founders of the Bank of China.