Courage to face history
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-19 06:01

The Japanese who came to China days ago and joined the Chinese to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their country's launching a war on China were guided by their conscience.

They were on a trip of remorse.

These people, though small in number, included Japanese Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe and some of the wartime Japanese emigrants who were repatriated from China's Huludao to Japan from May 7, 1946 to 1948. Their shift from invaders to messengers of friendship speaks volumes regarding their soul-searching over the ugly part of history they were involved in.

They came to the northeast of the country, where they raided the locals and were taken prisoner, with the courage to face squarely their own and their country's shameful past. These people, however they were tainted by the past, have been forgiven by the victims due to their remorse, conscience and courage.

They are open about the fact that they were part of the war against China and they have started learning the hard lessons of their youth. There is much to be commended in these Japanese's public stands.

On September 18, 1931, Japanese troops destroyed a section of railway in north Shenyang, and attacked the Chinese garrison stationed in Beidaying, Shenyang, on the same night. The incident was followed by Japan's total occupation of China's northeast.

But China has never got itself bogged down by the issue of history.

At a banquet China threw for visiting Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka on September 25, 1972, former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai elaborated China's policy on making a distinction between a handful of militaristic elements and the Japanese people at large.

Along with the contents of Zhou's speech, the banquet made headlines in Japan at the time.

The issue of history did not keep the two countries from normalizing diplomatic relations. China had gone through great pains to bridge the gap with Japan.

That part of history has become an issue since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi began paying annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni Shrine.

The political dimension of the bilateral relations can hardly move forward. The leaders of the two countries cannot meet to solve problems and work out the plans for future.

The one who creates a problem should be the one to solve it.

A new president of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party is due to be announced tomorrow, and a new Japanese Prime Minister next week.

The race for the LDP's presidency will be watched because whether the new leader of Japan will or can remove the obstacle to Sino-Japanese relations is not clear.

History is never a political bludgeon that China uses as leverage over Japan. Hopefully, history will not be made an issue in Japan.

(China Daily 09/19/2006 page4)