Thursday, April 21, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japanese PM apologises over war

*Prediction: China will say this is insufficient*

Somehow I don't think this cuts it. In the past 2 decades, Japan (through its Prime Ministers and even the Emperor) has 'apologised' to China for its wartime aggresions a total of 16 times. This would make the 17th.

However, what China wants I think is an unconditional apology and expressing 'deep remorse' would not entirely be sufficient. On the other hand there is a slight difference in that Mr Koizumi said: "In the past Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering for the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations." Furthermore, "Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage" and that "Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility."

This comes in the light of the Japan Court refusing to award damages to the so-called 'comfort women' that sued the Japanese government. On a side note, this is not a simple issue. There were women who volunteered to serve as comfort women in service to their nation. Unfortunately along the way, women from conquered nations were gang-pressed into the service as well.

I think that this is quite a brilliant political tactical move on the part of PM Koizumi. What they have essentially done is to trump the Chinese and to force the ball into their court. Recall that China said that no nation which could not and did not face their history squarely, would be eligible to be on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as a Permament Member.

This essential concession by China will leave them scrambling for a reply that does not make them appear churlish or uncooperative when the decision to expend the UNSC as part of the package of reforms come round. China now has to decide how it wants to take the Sino-Japan Relationship. More importantly, this will be a test of how China deals with its immediate neighbours, especially when they are competitors and threats.

I personally don't trust China much and I think they will put their self-interest before global ones. That in and of itself would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that China's self interest do not seem to be in alignment with global ones. Their obsession seems to be with territorial sovereignity, even at the expense of region stability and peace.

Beyond this, China will have one less argument to lever against Japan's increasing remilitarisation. One can definately seem sympathy with Beijing's position. On the one hand, Japan's remilitarisation means that the US plays a diminishing role militarily and hence has a decrease in influence in terms of both hard and soft power (with repecussions in Taiwan). But on the other hand, there is now a more direct threat to them, nevermind that Japan is ever going to want to return to its Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere past. So poor China faces a Hobbson's Choice.

But more than that, I think that since the UN reform package comes in a take it or leave it deal, it prevents Japan from being a scapegoat should the deal fail. This puts even more pressure on the nations who do not want the deal to go through, amongst which would naturally be China. The veto is powerful and translates into political influence in the General Assembly, diluting it would dimish China's power.

So here marks a possibly new but definately interesting chapter in East Asia and the region. Stay Tuned! =P



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