TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Saturday (Aug 22) marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, with a government-sponsored national memorial service for the war dead held at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.
The service has been scaled down for the first time, to prevent infections with the novel coronavirus.
The number of ceremony attendees, while over 500, is less than one-tenth of those present in a regular year.
In addition to measures taken to prevent the venue from becoming crowded, some prefectural governments have decided not to send members of surviving families to attend the service.
This is unavoidable considering that many of those who were scheduled to attend are elderly people.
There is no change at all in the significance of sincerely praying for the repose of the souls of the 3.1 million of Japan’s people who lost their lives during the war of the Showa era.
The Japan of today has been built on those precious sacrifices. The peace and prosperity that have existed over the past 75 years since the war’s end must be maintained.
When the 50th anniversary of the war’s end was marked in 1995, the Cold War era of ideological confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union had become part of the past. There were high expectations for peace.
However, with a quarter of a century now having passed, the international order is becoming increasingly unstable.
The United States, wearied by its war on terrorism, has been stepping up its “America First” policy, while China has flouted international rules in relation to such issues as the South China Sea and Hong Kong, intensifying its rift with Washington.
Russia has also made unilateral changes to the status quo, with its annexation of Crimea as just one example.
It is important to calmly grasp the complicated structure of confrontations among countries.
A recent book titled “Atarashii Chiseigaku” (New Geopolitics), which is based on joint research by political scientist Shinichi Kitaoka and other experts, notes some important points.
In the years following the end of the Cold War, the book says, there have been close economic exchanges even among countries at odds with each other.
Under the globalised economy, the strategic significance of economic power, along with political and military strength, has become important to consider.
This seems to be a significant point, especially when looking at the way China has expanded its influence by using massive economic assistance and pressure.
Japan, for its part, should play a role in alleviating conflicts that involve military and economic power and returning to a cooperation policy based on international rules.
To secure its voice in fulfilling this role, it is essential for the nation to maintain domestic stability without weakening its own economic power.
The virus pandemic and global economic slowdown pose immediate challenges. The government must do its utmost to strike a balance between infection control and economic recovery.
Mounting social unrest can accelerate distrust in politics. Considering history before World War II, in which the rise of populism accelerated the headlong rush to war, sound domestic governance can be described as a prerequisite for diplomacy that can contribute to international cooperation.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and the establishment of the National Police Reserve, the predecessor of the Self-Defence Forces (SDF).
They both occurred in the summer of 1950, five years after the end of World War II. Critic Tsunego Baba, then president of The Yomiuri Shimbun, said at the time, “Any country needs the power to defend itself to some extent.”
Baba also wrote: “While entrusting our national security to US forces, we have been preoccupied too much with the idea that all we have to do is to improve our own lives.” Postwar peace has been bolstered by realistic defence theories like his.
The SDF was established in 1954, followed by the signing of the present Japan – US Security Treaty in 1960. The Japan – US alliance has been an indispensable foundation for the stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
The most imminent threat is North Korea, which has been engaged in nuclear and missile development while making repeated provocations.
It is essential for the government to upgrade the SDF’s role and make efforts to strengthen the Japan – US alliance.
Deterrence should be enhanced with an eye on space and cyberspace, as well as on the ground, at sea and in the air.
Rejecting international cooperation can result in disastrous outcomes. It is a duty for the Japanese to hand down the memories of war and continue to call for peace in the world.
Isao Tokoro, a professor emeritus at Kyoto Sangyo University, was a junior high school student when his mother showed him for the first time an official notice of his father’s death in battle.
“I hope you will raise Isao well,” the father’s final letter said, according to Tokoro.
In 1972, when Tokoro was 30, the same age at which his father died, he found his father’s belongings and remains in the Solomon Islands.
Absorbing the sorrow of the war dead can surely help renew determination for maintaining the nation’s postwar path.
It is regrettable that, despite Japan’s diplomatic efforts, there remain unresolved issues with some of its neighbours that date back to the war of the Showa era.
Russia has amended its Constitution, which now prohibits territorial cession. This is a post hoc justification for the former Soviet Union’s illegal occupation of Japan’s northern territories, and there is concern that it will adversely affect negotiations over the four islands.
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have further worsened over the issue of former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula.
This is because the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has failed to implement necessary measures in relation to a ruling by his country’s Supreme Court, which runs against the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation between the two countries.
It is important to use the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II as an opportunity to accurately pass on the history of Japan’s inherent territory and its resolution of postwar issues to younger generations.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.
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