Kaifu looks back and forward on China relations

By Larry Lee (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-29 08:18
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 Kaifu looks back and forward on China relations

"China should be more confident in handling Japan-China relations, " Japan's former prime minister Toshiki Kaifu says. Larry Lee

China Daily: You have always enjoyed quite high popularity in China. Eighteen years have passed since you visited China in the capacity of Japan's prime minister in 1991.

Toshiki Kaifu: I am not so sure if I am popular in China. However, I was the first Japanese prime minister who laid a flower at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tian'anmen Square. While I stood there, I was thinking about the leaders in Chinese history who had made various efforts to win a better China. Contemporary China's history originated from Tian'anmen Square. I am a pacifist. I dedicated my flower to all the deceased and prayed for everything to get better.

CD: The martyrs the Monument to the People's Heroes mourned includes those who gave their lives during the 8-year-long War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. As a person who used to be the prime minister of Japan, what was your thought when you were presenting flowers in front of this monument?

TK: Everyone has a different stand, opinion, belief and mood. I was hoping all the souls can rest peacefully forever and not let a tragic incident like this happen again. Even though people in Japan had different views regarding my presenting flowers in Tian'anmen Square, I still insisted on doing so.

CD: You were born in 1931. In the year of 1945, when you were a 14-year-old boy, Emperor Hirohito delivered his radio speech to declare Japan's defeat. What did you do then?

TK: Please don't be mad at me when listening to my story. By that time I was a grade 2 student in middle school and educated by militarism. Instead of going to school, I threw myself in the war industry and worked with all my might to build fighters. On that day we were told that the emperor was going to give a speech by radio and we were asked to gather. We didn't have a radio of good quality so we failed to hear clearly what the emperor had said. Later our principal told us that the emperor declared the end of the war and we should go back to school, not come back to the factory anymore. I was half relaxed and felt truly well by releasing myself from that kind of disgusting life. For the other half, my question was, how could we embrace the defeat when we had always been educated that Japan was achieving victory after victory? Anyhow, most of my mood was relaxing.

Life during the war

CD: Was your home in Nagoya then?

TK: Right. My home was ruined by US bombing. My job at the Mitsubishi Airplane Company was relatively simple. To prevent the trembling of the engine during the flying, I was asked to use wire to fix the engine.

CD: Your home was ruined by US bombers. And the US dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Have you ever resented the US? When you met US President George HW Bush in your capacity as Japan's prime minister, did any idea appear in your mind that this is the boss of the country that used nuclear bombs in your homeland?

TK: US was the hatred enemy of Japan during WWII. Japan was also fighting with China. We need to engage ourselves in introspection. Bush was the leader of the world and the president of the US.

When I met him for the first time as the PM of Japan, I knew little about the US and didn't know how to behave. I didn't know if it was proper to say, "Mr President, nice to meet you".

What I said then, half flattering, was that the US is the leader of the free world and Japan will help the US to take the role as the leader. Mr Bush was very happy to hear what I said. He suggested I address him as George, and he would address me by my first name, Toshiki. In Japan, everyone must show respect to someone senior than you or whose post is higher. How could a person like me who served two terms as education minister address Mr Bush as George who is senior than I and I just met him for the first time?

Hisashi Owada, the No. 3 official in our Foreign Ministry and the father of Masako who later becomes the princess, told me that addressing each other by first name could bring our relationship closer. Then I addressed Mr Bush as George with great care.

I didn't have any uncomfortable feeling toward the US president. It must be said by the other party that (dropping A-bombs) should never be repeated. It is not necessary for Japanese to say so. The inscription on a stone monument in Hiroshima was "Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated." I don't believe it is right to put it this way. I am a honorary professor at Peking University. I made several speeches there and some people who understand Japanese were there to listen. What I said there was that it is not right for the victims to say something like "don't repeat mistakes". Those words should be uttered by harm-doers.

CD: Was Japan the harm-doer in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression?

TK: Of course. I also said it frankly to Chinese leaders when I visited China for the first time. Japan should be in deep introspection for the mistakes it committed in the past. The spirit and idea like this has been embodied in the communiqu of establishing diplomatic relations between Japan and China. We must obey the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China.

CD: The word you used is "mistake", while Mr Kakuei Tanaka, the former PM, and Hirohito, the late emperor, used "trouble". Chinese people refer to it as "crime".

TK: When I addressed the historical issues, I said that it was the Japanese who committed the war of aggression. There is no doubt about that. In Japan, some people said it was something that happened in China. I advised those people to take a look at Lugouqiao, which is in the backyard of China. It was something happened in the backyard of China. Obviously it was the mistake committed in the backyard of another family.

As for the word "trouble", that has always been considered as understated. However, in Japanese language, it is a very big apology, which means very sorry. I was asked the same question in Peking University. If we kept our conversation at this level, Japan would constantly say "very sorry" with highest keigo, the honorific speech. Then, could Japan and China build a relationship which is truly looking forward to the future?

In the meantime, I have some historical issues I'd like to discuss. When Dr Sun Yat-sen prepared for the 1911 revolution, Mr Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University, my alma mater, said that greater Asianism was an important issue for Japan, and Dr Sun was in Japan preparing the revolution to build a new China, we got to help him.

We Japanese did our best to help Dr Sun. Shokichi Umeya, the tycoon, and his family donated all their private properties to Dr Sun and wished him success at an early date. Everybody cheered him on.

Japan indeed had done something very bad. However, please don't always be resentful on those things. On the other side, we have Dr Sun's story.

Although the Japanese don't speak about the war history which has made everyone very angry, they know it in their hearts. Both sides should step forward one step.

CD: From the point view of the former PM of Japan, did Japan apologize to China already?

TK: You would rebuke me again if I put it in a Japanese way. When Japan and China restored diplomatic relations, the Joint Communique said that we will never repeat what had happened before. I believe that each PM in Japan had the mood of apology. But in terms of how to express it, as the example you gave about Tanaka, sometimes it may lead to misunderstanding.

There is no doubt that in all the hearts of the Japanese there is a feeling that we had done bad things in the past and we have to be in introspection. No one has the intention to repeat the history, please believe this. It has to be this way. Both of us should more and more focus on the future.

CD: Many things have made Chinese feel that the Japanese haven't thoroughly finished the process of soul-searching in terms of re-examining the war of aggression. For instance, the famous textbook incident. Quite a few Chinese people considered that Japan tried to dilute the historical issues by revising the textbook.

TK:We touched this topic finally. What I want to say is there is not a single time when Japan has written that kind of book and passed the inspection of the Ministry of Education. A newspaper wrote a story about this and tried to please China. It is simply not the fact. It seems the final conclusion that the Education Ministry replaced "aggression" with "entering", but there is no such thing. It's a misunderstanding and please help us to clarify it.

CD: Aren't you in favor of replacing the word "aggression" with "entering"?

TK: I am positively against this change. But nothing like this happened. Should there be one, I would oppose it for sure.

CD: Yukichi Fukuzawa, the famous Japanese thinker in 19th century, once said that wars are the biggest disasters on earth and the Western countries specialized in going in for wars. A man of insight some 100 years ago raised this point of view. However, Japan marched onto the road of militarism in 1930s. Have you ever thought about the reasons why Japan had entered into the wars of aggression?

TK: Many books have been published in this field and I read some of them with great interest. One of the reasons for Japan entering into war was that the military headquarters itself moved too fast. I don't know if it is proper for me to put it this way. The emperor keenly regretted and clearly said that he had had no intention to conduct a war. It is even clearer that in 1975, the emperor stopped formal visits to Yasukuni Jinjia after he studied various aspects and learned it will be a place to hold memorial ceremonies for those A-class war criminals. I believe that His Majesty was very clear that the war had been a mistake.

CD: The progress of a country should be the progress of the minds and intelligences of all its people. What has been the legacy left and lesson learned for Japan from the war?

TK: Like I always said, I was a youngster when my home was torn down by warfare. In the wake of the war, I was determined to be a statesman and I had spent 49 years in the Diet. Never was there a single moment when I would like to repeat the war. These kind of ideas haven't occurred in Japan either. Now the young kids find out what Japan's attitude has been by learning from textbooks. Japanese people educate their next generation with consciousness.

CD: Some Japanese leaders paid formal visits to Yasukuni Jinjia, including Mr Nakasone who led his cabinet members to pay a formal visit. The Chinese government and the Chinese people expressed their anger toward it. What is your opinion?

TK: This is a very difficult question. I used to stay at the representatives dormitory at Kudan, Tokyo. I passed by the Yasukuni Jinjia when I went to the Diet everyday. Even though I didn't park my car and go inside to make a visit, I would naturally lower my head slightly to hold my memorial for the spirits of the brave departed.

When I was the PM, Ambassador Yang Zhenya, who speaks Japanese very well, highly praised me for not paying a formal visit to Yasukuni Jinjia. Yang's wife, Ms Han Qiufang, was born in Nagoya, speaks fluent Japanese. At that time, the members of the Diet had organized a visiting group, and I didn't join it based on my judgment. Mr Wang Yi, former Chinese ambassador to Japan, also highly praised me for not going. All the Chinese ambassadors to Japan speak Japanese very well and they often conduct conversations with me directly.

In order to have a balanced opinion within the LDP, also, to make Yasukuni Jinjia a quiet place for people to pray, I have never paid any formal visits there since I became the PM. However, there are many pigeons in the yard of the Jinjia, I would take my grandson to visit and then feed the pigeons. In 2001 in China, at a summit, Ambassador Yang Zhenya said that PM Kaifu discussed various situations and then decided not to visit Yasukuni Jinjia.

After the warm applause, I said it was a bit too early to clap your hands. If I say that the reason for me not to visit Yasukuni Jinjia was because China didn't allow me to, I will be ferreted out when I return to Japan. My decision was based on my own will. I don't want to cause a big problem. Simply, Mr Kaifu is a pacifist. Then I obtained a round of big applause.

Divisive issues

CD: From the angle of Japan's former PM, how do you view the issue of Taiwan?

TK: Isn't that a China issue? We could only quietly watch the mainland's Taiwan policy. If this could bring peace and stability, that would be great.

CD: Diaoyu Islands issue. Premier Zhou Enlai once said, for our generation we don't have enough wisdom to handle it and let's leave it to our next generation. What is your opinion?

TK: For Senkaku Islands, both sides claim sovereignty over it and disputes have occurred hence. It is fundamentally clear after the survey that there are abundant petroleum resources underneath the seabed. China is also pretty clear regarding this.

As for the exploration around this area, if China exclusively occupies these resources, definitely there will be a voice in Japan to protest it and say, how could it be this way? In my opinion, since both sides have special government divisions to discuss this issue, and Japan possesses the advanced technology for exploration and operation of oil field, exactly like what I have said to Ambassador Wang Yi, Japan and China could create a win-win case. We might as well put aside the dispute of sovereignty and think twice about what we could do to create a win-win situation. Surely the ideal outcome would be the realization of the exploration and recovering the oil. When the LDP was in power, we had this idea.

Now we have a new government. It seems that all the things we have done before are wrong. The new government would like to do new things. I haven't argued with them face to face, while I just quietly pay my attention to this issue. Fortunately, we haven't seen much development on this issue so far. We shouldn't make the Japan-China relations go backward.

Balancing relations

CD: On your way from Japan to China in 1991, you saw the flood in East China and decided to provide additional aid. The Chinese people highly appreciate your effort. But it seems that Japan has always attached more importance to the relations with the US. As a PM, how did you balance the relations between Tokyo and Beijing vs Tokyo and Washington?

TK: At that time, Shanghai's surrounding area and East China suffered severe flooding. I asked the pilot to fly as low as he could without disturbing the people. I hoped I could confirm the flood by my own eyes. What I saw from the plane deeply impressed in my mind. I told (former Chinese premier) Mr Li Peng during the first round of government meeting, if there is anything we could do, please let us know and we will do our best to provide help.

As for relations with the US, we had fought with the US. Nevertheless, the democracy of the US has its broad mind. The US wanted to turn Japan into a democratic country with economic power.

To have a good relationship with a country like the US is a good thing. It is a happy outcome for Japan to transform to a democratic country.

The US also has the intention to lead Iraq into a democratic country, taking Japan as its model. The outcomes are totally different. There were no terror attacks during the US occupation in Japan. But in Iraq, the US military has suffered a lot of terror attacks. The US also raised the point of the difference between Japan and Iraq. Taking the US as its model, Japan rebuilt its nation and has realized economic growth.

Japan has maintained the correct direction in the wake of war. I had close relations with Germany.

I firmly believe Japan has been built into a nation with freedom and democracy with the US as its model. Sometimes European countries would complain about the Japan-US relations. From China's point of view, China has done a lot of good things, and Japan still leans to one side. I know there are those criticisms, and I accept it with an open mind.

CD: How do you evaluate General MacArthur? Modern Japan's national structure and constitution still bear his mark.

TK: In my impression, MacArthur always got in and out his limo, nothing intimate. That person was the supreme commander and I looked at him with respect. At that time I was only a student, and I had no chance to encounter him or say hello to him. I believe MacArthur had good intentions. He took his approach because he hoped Japan could become a country like the US, even though he left Japan with his lofty aspirations unrealized.

Personal diplomacy

CD: You met President Jiang Zemin in 2002. He told you that the friendship between China and Japan is the only and correct choice. What is your expectation about the future of Sino-Japan relations?

TK: (Former) president Jiang Zemin speaks very fluent Japanese. Before taking the position as the PM, I had served as the chairman of Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is the organization that dispatches Japanese volunteers abroad.

Jiang Zemin ... persuaded me to send as many volunteers as possible to China. He praised JICA as an excellent mechanism. Hence I replied that as Your Excellency said so, I will start doing that. Beijing's China-Japan Friendship Hospital completed its construction in 1984, and the first volunteers sent to China in 1986 were the nurses working in this hospital. This program continues till today.

President Jiang Zemin and I met occasionally since then. The environmental protection awareness has started to awake. I visited China several times for the purpose of environment protection. China also invited me to observe and study compulsive education and introduce the experience of Japan in this regard. I have also done my best.

CD: Mr Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's new PM, and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea, just visited Beijing recently. In the trilateral summit, the three countries jointly proposed to form an East Asian Community. What is your comment?

TK: It will be a very good thing for East Asia, if the three countries could work as one.

I have a concern. The statement now has excluded the US. When I was the PM of Japan, Mr Mahathir, the premier of Malaysia, also proposed to me to form an East Asia Economic Community. The US vice president, Mr Dan Quayle, checked my schedule and learned I was going to meet Mahathir soon. He flew to Tokyo immediately and met me in a place other than the PM's residence. He told me he was going to say something confidential. Quayle told me that the US would find it very difficult should Japan join it and exclude the US. He expressed grave concerns of the US government and hoped Japan would not take part in it.

Of course, the US doesn't take more arbitrary actions like it did in the past. However, even if the three countries reached a consensus through great efforts, my concern is that something unsmooth and unstable would happen during the actual development process, if the US still feels like it did before. I have maintained very good relations with Mr Hatoyama - we treat each other like brothers.

I hope he could hear my frank comments. So far he hasn't replied. Mr Hatoyama is determined to do this. This is for sure.

CD: What is your suggestion regarding the development of Sino-Japanese relations?

TK: What was the rank of Japan-China economic relations in the world only a few years ago? What is it now? The volume of Japan-US trade used to be ranked No.1. That mark has been passed three years ago. China has become the No. 1 world factory.

I hope China, Korea and Japan can work together and play a leadership role in Asia. Mr Hatoyama also said so. Japan shouldn't keep its arrogant mentality like it had in the past. We also introduce this at schools in Japan and ask students to learn. I have given suggestions to the Education Ministry and said the same words to the ministers. I have passed the same message to the education ministers of China. In a word, China should be more confident in handling Japan-China relations.

Kaifu looks back and forward on China relations

(China Daily 10/29/2009 page11)