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The return of Liberal Democratic Party's Shinzo Abe to power is a culminating point for right-wing forces in Japan. Abe appears keen on making Japan's stance on militarism less apologetic by replacing the landmark 1995 Murayama statement (former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama had apologized for the Japanese atrocities committed during World War II).
Needless to say, Japan's sharp right turn will escalate the already high tension in East Asia. Making matters worse is the belligerence of some Southeast Asian countries in their territorial disputes with China. The Philippines, which suffered Japanese atrocities during World War II, has surprisingly supported the revival of militarism in Japan, which has the tacit backing of the United States. To contain China's rise, the US is playing with fire by re-arming Japan and instigating territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region.
With the consolidation of US-Japan military ties, Washington has intensified its military cooperation with Tokyo and encouraged Japanese right-wing forces to take on China through the Diaoyu Islands disputes. But the US ought to realize that the profit it expects to reap from a Sino-Japanese conflict will not be without a cost.
The US may be willing to propel Japan's territorial ambitions - a dangerous move to say the least - to contain China's rise, but it cannot afford to push thousands of US soldiers into another conflict.
In the hope of reviving its fortunes, Japan seized the opportunity offered by the US rebalancing to Asia (shifting of Washington's strategic focus to Asia) to re-engage in military expansionism and even to try to build nuclear weapons. Japan, as a matter of tradition, has worshipped the strong and powerful. It surrendered only to the US in World War II after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But despite years of US occupation, there was not even the slightest change in the core of Japan's war machine - the imperial system.
Japan does not see China as a victorious nation of World War II and continues its arrogant defiance of history. Unlike Germany, Japan has never thoroughly reflected on its war crimes. Worse, it has soured relations with Russia, China and the Republic of Korea over territorial disputes. Perhaps the US's support has emboldened Japan to do so.
But by departing from the post-war international order it helped create, the US will draw fire from the international community. As a nuclear power, Japan will not continue to bow to the US, and Washington knows it full well. In this sense, the huge US military presence in Japan is to watch over Japan rather than to protect it.
Japan's political make-up is such that it cannot have total control over its own armed forces, and the US is not reconciled to use the resultant dangerous force to compete with its new rivals.
Therefore, the US and Japan, each with its own axe to grind, act in collusion. The US' dangerous moves and the Japanese right-wing forces eventually will not only harm other countries in Asia-Pacific, but also bring disaster upon themselves.
Japan should realize that its arrogance and bellicose attitude will not be tolerated by its neighbors, particularly China, which want to maintain peace and stability in East Asia. For long, China has been earnestly persuading Japan to reflect on its war crimes, but its efforts have not resonated with the international community, especially the US, which believes an anti-China Japan will be conducive to its return to Asia strategy.
China has been trying to uphold international justice. But it's time it exposed Japanese designs, because they pose a threat not only to the region but also to the rest of the world. Doing so will help the international community to once again unite against Japanese militarism. This is important because China faces a country that is not only powerful but also has returned evil for good.
As long as Japan reflects on its historical mistakes, China is willing to focus on the development of Sino-Japanese ties and bilateral cooperation for mutual benefit. The Japanese economy has become highly dependent on China. But of late, some Japanese politicians have indulged in the wishful thinking of benefiting from China's economic development and using the money so earned to counterbalance China.
China, however, is no longer the country of the 1930s when the Japanese let loose a reign of terror. China today occupies an important place in the international community and is a major economic power. This shift in the balance of power is what Japanese right-wing forces cannot accept. Therefore, keeping in mind its external challenges and threats China has to strengthen itself, especially on the military front, to maintain peace and security in the region.
The challenges posed by Japan, the US and some other countries has compelled China to rapidly develop its military, which in turn can help maintain peace and stability in East Asia.
If Japan owns up to its war crimes, it can be pardoned by countries that it occupied and brutalized during World War II. In fact, a Japan in pursuit of peace would be the best guarantee of peace and stability in the region, otherwise, the international community has to teach Japan again how to be a peace-loving nation.
The author is a professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.
(China Daily 01/14/2013 page9)