Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe isn't just an obedient American stooge — he's also an unrepentant jerk
Since the United States and its pals in the Justice League G-7 have decided to double-down on standing up to "Russian aggression,” ™ I felt it was incumbent upon Russia Insider to pay tribute to one of the virtuous attendees of the Germany forum: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Now, I am not suggesting that Shinzo Abe is a bad person. I don't want anyone reading this to get the impression that he denies Japan's WWII-era war crimes, or that he is presiding over an increase in nationalist fervor in Japan, or that he is embroiled in nasty territorial disputes with neighboring South Korea and China, or that, following the Fukushima disaster, Japan banned the sale of foreign-made Geiger counters.
I'm just kidding. He's done all of those things.
In 1910, Japan invaded the Korean peninsula, beginning 35 years of brutal colonial rule. Out to prove to the West that it was civilized, modern, and part of the Imperial Club, Japan's empire employed European-style colonization models, including ethnic segregation and forced assimilation. Between 1868 and 1945, Japan conquered and occupied territories in Asia, including Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, and Taiwan. Feeling slighted by the major European players at the end of WWI, in the years leading up to WWII, Japan decided to press its luck with the Axis powers, and formed an alliance with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and Italy's Mussolini-led fascist government.
Their subsequent wartime atrocities are infamous. Nanking. Bataan. During World War II, it is estimated that tens of thousands of women and girls in Japan's colonial holdings, as well as throughout the Asia Pacific, were forced, kidnapped, or manipulated into becoming “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers. While initially some of the comfort women were taken from brothels, Abe, showing his sensitive nature, has refused to apologize to surviving comfort women, claiming that they were all prostitutes or “willing volunteers.” Many of the “comfort women” became pregnant. They were also starved, beaten, and killed by Japanese soldiers.
As the LA Times reported:
This is what most historians believe. But not in Japan, where a large faction of conservatives, led by Abe, denies that the Japanese military forced women into sexual slavery. They maintain that any suggestion to the contrary is simply anti-Japanese propaganda and probably spread by China. At the furthest end of the spectrum, the minimizing turns to flat-out denial; one professor we interviewed at a top Japanese university adamantly insisted there were no killings or rapes in Nanking.
Not only is Abe's government denying that there were atrocities at Nanking – where an estimated 200,000 were killed and 20,000 women raped – but there is also a concerted effort by Japan to change world textbooks to reflect a rosier view of Japan's empire and wartime brutality. In fact, the new textbook version of events is apparently so out of touch with reality that McGraw-Hill, a major American textbook publisher, has refused to print them. Despite protests from the Asian community, during his speech to Congress earlier this year, Abe only apologized for the Americans who lost their lives to Japanese forces during the war.
The White House has placed no pressure on Abe to acknowledge war crimes. When Abe visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in December of 2013, against the requests made by the Obama administration, the White House expressed their “disappointment.” Yes, Obama was “disappointed” that Abe visited a shrine which commemorates Class A war criminals. The Yasukuni Shrine is a memorial to the Japanese war dead, but among the over 2 million souls memorialized there, a little over 1,000 are convicted war criminals. Japanese officials' visits there have caused consternation among Japan's neighboring countries. Imagine if Putin had left flowers at Stalin's grave.
The United States claims to be a great friend to and protector of South Korea, but what is North Korea's neighbor to think when one of the U.S.'s “junior partners” denies any mistreatment of Korean women and doesn't condemn Abe? What could be the reason that the G7 – supposedly the last line of defense against the dastardly designs of the history revisionists of Russia – would include someone like Shinzo Abe in their exclusive little club? Could it be this fancy “pivot to Asia” strategy that's been talked up so much? Maybe the Guardian can help us out:
Japan and other allies are crucial to the success of this US strategy, both by enhancing the country's military presence in Asia Pacific, and by increasing burden sharing of the costs of a US-led security order in the region.
Yes, it all makes sense now. With this less than stellar record, the Japanese Prime Minister is photographed palling around with the morally upright leaders of the G-7. Fancy that. Pivot to Asia? More like Pivot to Pieces of Human Detritus.
Territorial Disputes: The Case of Dokdo Islands
Amid the increasingly politicized arena of international sporting events, you may have noticed when, during the 2012 London Summer Olympics, a Korean soccer player found himself in a spot of bother over a sign he held up following Korea's victory over Japan. After South Korea was awarded the bronze medal in soccer, midfielder Park Jong-Woo displayed a sign stating that the Dokdo Islands belonged to South Korea. This caused outrage among the Japanese fans and players, and led Park to be temporarily stripped of his medal. (Park later won it back during an appeals process – a medal being necessary for him in South Korea, where all males must be drafted into the army with few exceptions, possessing an Olympic medal being one of them.)
Officially, Korea currently has jurisdiction over the island group. Also known as the Liancourt or Takeshima Rocks, they are a group of basically...rocks...located in the Sea of Japan. Japan claims to ownership of the rocks going back to the 17th century, and both countries cite historic documentation to support their claims. Japan annexed the islands in 1905, ahead of their1910 invasion of the Korean peninsula, and used them as a springboard to launch their war against Russia, but the the territory was given back to South Korea after WWII. However, the Japanese government has been pressing the issue.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website states the following:
Takeshima is indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based on international law.
The Republic of Korea has been occupying Takeshima with no basis in international law. Any measures the Republic of Korea takes regarding Takeshima based on such an illegal occupation have no legal justification.
Japan will continue to seek the settlement of the dispute of the territorial sovereignty over Takeshima on the basis of international law in a calm and peaceful manner.
Note: The Republic of Korea has never demonstrated any clear basis for its claims that it had effective control over Takeshima prior to Japan’s effective control over Takeshima and reaffirmation of its territorial sovereignty in 1905.
Them's fightin' words.
Why is anyone fighting over a set of barren rocks, you ask? Well, as Jeb Bush's brother George W. might have put it: strategery. The islands are said to be home to rich fishing grounds and supposedly contain deposits of natural gas. Then there is the obvious factor that possession of the islands extends Korea's territorial boundaries well beyond their physical border and into the Sea of Japan. Then there is the historical significance. Today's Koreans still smart over Japan's cruel occupation, and losing the islands which symbolize their sovereignty would certainly strike a huge blow to their national pride.
These islands have been under dispute on and off since the end of WWII, but Japan has become more insistent in recent years that the islands be handed over. Their claim basically extends from the decision made by the United States and the Allied Powers not to include Dokdo in the list of territories Japan was required to cede after its surrender. Japan and the United States were signatories on the Treaty of San Francisco, which stripped Japan of a good portion of its empire (minus Dokdo), but the then-united Korea was not party to the treaty. South Korea's position is that when they were liberated, all of their pre-1910 territorial possessions were returned to them. Their argument is that Japan's claims are motivated by a wish to restore part of their lost empire.
The issue flared up from time to time in the years following the end of the war, but tensions between the two countries had been brimming leading up to the incident at the London Games. Indeed, over the last decade, Japan has been asserting its right to Dokdo, with Abe's government going so far as to claim the territory in a defense report . Tensions have actually risen considerably since Abe first became prime minister in 2006. This, of course, cannot simply be the responsibility of one man, but Abe is pretty adamant that these islands – which haven't been part of Japan for 70 years -- are really part of Japan.
And what of the indispensable nation? What is America to do with an increasingly revanchist Japan? Why, remain neutral on their territorial claims, m'boy! The U.S. will not stand behind Korea's claim to Dokdo, and insists on calling the islands by their neutral name – the Liancourt Rocks. Perhaps it is not terribly surprising that the U.S. supports Japan over China in the Senkaku islands debate. Because...China. But it must come as somewhat of a disappointment to South Korea that their American friends have not seen fit to recognize South Korea's territorial integrity. By giving Japan's territorial ambitions equal weight to those of South Korea's, and refusing to acknowledge South Korea's current legal claim, the USA has basically friendzoned one of its most loyal client states.
Japan's rising nationalism and 19th century behavior have put the United States in an awkward position. Both Japan and South Korea are reliant on the U.S. militarily, and the economic powerhouses of Samsung and Hyundai/KIA do billions of dollars' worth of business in the United States every year. The U.S. military is present in South Korea ostensibly to "protect" it from its northern neighbor, but people without the rose-colored spectacles know the real reasons are 1) China 2) China and 3 ) Additionally, it is Japan, not South Korea, that is the lynch pin of America's Pivot to Asia strategy. Geostrategically and militarily, America hopes to rely mostly on Japan to help “contain” China. South Korea finds Japan's resurgent militarism and nationalism to be threatening and problematic. The United States continues to look the other way.
North Korea, by the way, recognizes South Korea's right to retain Dokdo.
The Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown receives very little, if any, coverage in the Western press.
Nevertheless, Washington's Blog has reported on Abe's government enacting widespread censorship over the Fukushima disaster. Japan also banned the sale of foreign-made Geiger counters, claiming that they are “inaccurate.” There are also concerns that the disaster will not be cleaned up by Japan's 2020 Olympics, but the U.S. has not raised any flags about concerns for public safety, let alone called for their cancellation. At a UN disaster conference in March of this year, Abe remained reticent to speak about nuclear contamination in Japan. Even Bloomberg has expressed its concern over contaminated water leaking into the ocean. There are even accusations that Abe lied about Fukushima in order to get the Olympics to Tokyo.
Despite the lack of coverage in the West, Greenpeace, Global Policy Research, and Washington's Blog have written extensively about the Fukushima disaster. Fukushima Diary, a blog devoted to informing the public about the disaster, posts regular updates.
This article is not meant to be a condemnation of the Japanese people, their heritage, or their culture. However, it must be acknowledged that their prime minister is a problematic figure, one who engages in media censorship, historical revisionism, and openly expresses desires to return lost imperial holdings. Has not the American leadership accused Vladimir Putin of all of these things? Yet, Shinzo Abe was seated at the G-7 with the other supposed upholders of freedom and democracy. Perhaps he has stumbled into a good position and wishes to remain on America's good side, and therefore must take a “firm stance” against Russia. Perhaps he cannot really be blamed for looking out for his country's bests interests. He might one day make a wrong move, and all of his past mistakes might be dredged up by the New York Times. Who knows – with fair-weather friends like America, Britain, and Germany, Japan might, like Russia, find itself yet once more at the top of the West's fecal roster.
Here's a reading comprehension quiz...
This man refuses to apologize for Japanese soldiers forcing women and underage girls into sex slavery:
This man has publicly honored Stalin's victims.
Which one of these men is an inhuman monster? Did you answer Vladimir Putin? Correct. You have just been accepted to the Anne Applebaum School of Charm and Deportment.
Lisa Marie White is a regular contributor to Russia Insider. She Pivots to Facepalm every time she reads the Western press. Comments and complaints: @lisa_white
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