Plunge Pontificates

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's the history stupid!

Yes, there are many current problems between Japan, Korea and China, but dismissing the history as so many Japnophiles wish to do is just wrong.

Stepped up tensions between China and Japan could be eased by the recognition and resolution of Japan and China's past, particularly as Japan steps up its security efforts in the region, experts said.

The two countries have been at odds over the recognition of war crimes committed by the Japanese army in the past, and what the Chinese perceive as Japanese efforts to play down and conceal its wartime past.

"I think history is a real issue, it's a real concern for the leadership of both countries," said Eric Higenbotham, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington at an event Tuesday.

The biggest problem comes when Japan apologists try and make it out like those protesting Japan's treatment of history are saying that it is the ONLY problem and do not recognize current situations. That is completely untrue. What most are saying is that it greatly adds to the anger and frustration.

It is unclear what Washington's role in the resolution of a historical dispute will be. So far many Japanese say the U.S. position over the tensions has been passive and Washington has advocated a fix-it-yourself policy. David Kang, an associate professor in government at Dartmouth College, says the issue will ultimately have to be decided by the leaders of the countries.

"Ultimately, a change in historic perceptions depends on the leadership," he said. "There has to be an overall change in the way academics, politicians, and people on the street view it."

Higenbotham also says the leadership must take a strong role in changing the perceptions and the anger. He says there must be a will to end the debates over history, and education must be changed to prevent youth from being misinformed.
Then, if Japan finally does this, they might be able to fill the role of leader they so desperately want.