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Home » Archives » April 2005 » War Apology by Yohei Kono, 1991

War Apology by Yohei Kono, 1991

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 Posted: 12:09 PM JST

Statement by Yohei Kono, then chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party and a member of the Diet, on the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima.

During a US Senate hearing on September 10, 1991 this statement was inserted into the record with the note:

"In his remarks, he apologizes in behalf of Japan for the Pacific War and takes a conciliatory stand that is a credit to him and the people of Japan.

Leaders of every country, including the United States, would be wise to recognize the wisdom and generosity of this example."


Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor


Japan owes the United States and Asia an apology for the Pacific War. The 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is a dramatic opportunity to reassure the international community, which is waiting to see how we contribute to the `new world order' and take political initiatives benefitting our economic power.

Americans have become more critical of Japan not only because of the trade imbalance and remarks by Japanese politicians that offend minority groups, but because they are dissatisfied with our support of the allied effort in the Gulf War.

Anti-Japanese feelings will intensify later this year as U.S. veterans' groups and other organizations hold commemorative events to mark Dec. 7.

There is no magic formula for alleviating American hostility toward Japan. Given the two nations' rivalry in world markets, conflicts of interest are inevitable for the time being. Both countries need the wisdom to cope patiently with trade friction.

Japan's past failure to vow never to repeat such deeds as the colonization of Korea, invasion of China and seizure of other parts of Asia during World War II has made people in the region distrustful of Tokyo and impeded our efforts to play a constructive international role.

During a visit to Singapore in May, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu became the first Japanese premier to express publicly heartfelt regret for the `unbearable suffering and sorrow' Japan inflicted during the war. This important action should be constantly reinforced by appropriate expressions of remorse and sincere repentance. We have to be very careful not to offend our neighbors by distorting the history of Japan's aggression.

Cooperative relationships with the advanced industrial democracies, particularly the United States, and with countries in the Asia-Pacific region are the keystone of our foreign policy. Accepting moral responsibility for the past is a prerequisite for amicable ties. The `peace proclamations' issued by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at ceremonies marking the atomic bombings on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 are an ideal forum for addressing the world.

For the past decade I have participated in these observances on behalf of the Japanese Parliamentary Association for the Promotion of International Disarmament, but one aspect has always bothered me.

Of course I extend my sympathy to A-bomb victims, their relatives and the survivors who still suffer from radiation. But these proclamations speak of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without mentioning the ultimate cause of the tragedies: Japan's aggression in Asia and the December 1941 attack against the United States and Great Britain.

People from other countries who hear or read these statements must think we are indifferent to the massive loss of life and devastation Japan brought on. Americans may also feel that laments about the atomic holocaust devoid of reference to Pearl Harbor are one-sided and inflammatory.

Since 1989, the Nagasaki proclamation has noted the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and last year it also touched on Japan's colonization of Korea and the war against China (1931-45). This year, the Hiroshima declaration should include similar references. Prime Minister Kaifu, too, ought to allude to this historical context at both ceremonies.

The people of Hiroshima, in deciding on the content of their statement, should bear in mind that it attracts worldwide attention. This August is a chance to make amends for Pearl Harbor.

Keywords: war_apologies

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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