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Japan ignores history lesson
Publication Date : 08-08-2012
History should have taught Japan some serious lessons on how to deal with the rest of the world.
Confrontation seems to be Japan's choice in times of crises. The country has been in the doldrums since its economic bubble burst in the early 1990s and thwarted its plan to build itself into a political and military power. This contrasts sharply with the emerging economies including China, and has left Japan frustrated.
After last year's earthquake, some Japanese people asked their government to enhance cooperation with Asian countries to emerge out of the crisis. But distraught Japanese politicians think only jingoism can restore Japan's rightful place in the world. And right-wing politicians are resorting to confrontation in Japan's foreign policy to hold the nation together.
It is in this context that Japan has lost its power of restraint in the Diaoyu Islands issue. The Japanese government and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara are competing with each other to purchase three of the islets that are China's inherent territory.
About 40 Japanese politicians are reported to have landed on the islands on the pretext of paying tribute to the dead. Also, Japan will take advantage of the Osprey aircraft in Guam to patrol and monitor the areas near the Diaoyu Islands.
Japan's tough stance on the Diaoyu Islands issue means it is ready to be used as a pawn by the United States, which has declared its return-to-Asia strategy. This is one method the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is using to resolve its domestic political challenges, overcome its frustrations and get Japanese people's support.
Can confrontation with China help Japan relieve its anxiety? The Diaoyu Islands issue is just one of the territorial disputes Japan has with its neighbours. Will Japan confront all the countries it has a dispute with?
The commemoration of the first atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima early this week should remind Japan that extreme nationalism almost destroyed it 67 years ago. Japan had waged horrifically aggressive wars throughout Asia from 1937 until the US dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The survivors of the two bombings have recorded the pain, trauma and destruction they suffered. They have also reminded the world of the unimaginable sufferings a war causes.
The lessons of war, it seems, have failed to teach Japanese politicians that restraint and rationality are the orders of the day.