The battle over World War II history flares up during the ongoing NPT Review Conference.
As part of the ongoing review conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida urged global leaders to see the devastating consequences of atomic bombings. Kishida invited leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities targeted by U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War II, to “witness with their own eyes the realities of atomic bombings.”
However, Kyodo News reports that the NPT review committee removed similar language from its draft agreement after objections from China’s representative, Fu Cong. Fu tied the emphasis on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Japan’s attempts to “distort history” by playing the victim.
As Mina Pollmann noted earlier for The Diplomat’s Tokyo Report blog, Japan, as the only victim of atomic bombs, is playing a prominent role at the NPT review conference. Japanese politicians, including the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, urged NPT member states to take concrete action toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. Victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as hibakusha in Japanese, attended the conference to add weight to the discussion of the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons.
Kishida also touched on this theme in his statement at the NPT review conference. He argued that a “common recognition of humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons … serves as a driving force for nuclear disarmament.” As a corollary, he invited “political leaders and youth” to travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, particularly when leaders travel to Japan for the G7 meetings next year.
Japan was pushing for that language to be inserted into the final conference documents, but China (along with South Korea) has objected in no uncertain terms. Fu told Kyodo News that he had asked for the language to be removed from the draft document on Monday. He said that “this conference should keep clear of the history” because there is too much “historical baggage” tied to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
Fu argued that by emphasizing the suffering caused by the bombings, Japan’s government was “trying to portray Japan as a victim of the Second World War, rather than a victimizer.” He emphasized Japan’s own wartime atrocities in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia, which he accused Tokyo of denying or downplaying. “We don’t want any mention of Hiroshima [or] Nagasaki because there are reasons why those two [cities] were bombed,” Fu said. Referencing the two cities in the NPT document would be tantamount to “trying to impose a partial interpretation of the Second World War on the conference,” Fu said.
Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, responded similarly when asked about the NPT review conference on Tuesday. She said that all parties should “avoid introducing complicated and sensitive factors” into the review conference negotiations. When pressed on whether Chinese leaders had any plans to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hua retorted: “Let me ask first: when will Japanese leaders come to China and visit the memorial hall of victims in the Nanjing massacre?”
The violence following the conquest of Nanjing by Japanese troops on December 13, 1937 is emblematic of Japanese wartime atrocities — and Japanese historical revisionism — for many Chinese. The Chinese government, which recently made December 13 a national memorial day, says that 300,000 Chinese civilians were killed by Japanese soldiers. Some Japanese officials, including a governor of state broadcaster NHK, have denied that massacre ever happened. By Shannon Tiezzi for The Diplomat