By Mei Jingya, Sina English
The Christian Science Monitor on August 19 published an editorial, titled “Japan-China island clash: Peace in a common history”, setting forth its view on the flared-up confrontation in East China Sea.
In the past few weeks, following South Korean president Lee Myung-bak’s Aug. 10 visit to Dokdo (known as Takeshima in Japan), landings on Diaoyu Islands by both Chinese and Japanese activists have triggered an avalanche in East Asia.
Detailing its points of view on the regional conflict, the Monitor said, “To some degree, these clashes in East Asia are driven by each nation’s desire to tap the rights to seabed oil and fisheries around the islands. But underlying the fervor over the territorial disputes are deep emotions tied to the region’s history - especially over how each country interprets that history.”
“To peacefully resolve these island disputes will require a willingness by Asian nations, especially Japan, to agree on a historical record as well as a recognition of how much each country has sought peace and progressed in recent decades,” the article further goes.
Both Japan and Germany were losers of World War Two. But they reacted sharply differently to their historical record of aggression.
The Monitor article put in contrast of Germany and Japan’s attitudes on the war legacies, praising Germany as “a model of a postwar nation that embraced its victims, made restitution, and showed contrition through numerous heart-felt apologies”. German history books have accurately recorded its Nazi era aggression. And the true empathy displayed by many Germans has helped Germany become a leader of the European Union.
Japan, however, has never made the kinds of amends as Germany did, making it a scar tissue that haunts Chinese and Korean people time and again. In today’s Japan, a strong minority of nationalists still denies many of the atrocities committed by its soldiers in the last century.
The Monitor also revealed that in an attempt to seek common ground on history, a group of Japan scholars have worked with their counterparts in China and South Korea and eventually published one such history book in 2005, but it has not gained official favor in all these countries. A joint scholarly committee was launched in 2006 for the purpose as well, but failed to agree on details of events such as the 1937 Nanjing massacre.
South Korea and Japan have also tried to do the same. But nationalism continues to be a useful political tool in both countries, much to the worry of their common ally, the United States, that wants their help in dealing with China.
According to the article, last week, two former prominent US security officials, in a report on US-Japan relations, called on Japan, South Korea and the US to expand the dialogue over historical issues. It stated: “For the alliance to realize its full potential, it is essential for Japan to confront the historical issues that continue to complicate relations with [the Republic of Korea].”
In addition, the report said: “Seoul and Tokyo should reexamine their bilateral ties through a realpolitik lens. Historical animosity is not strategically threatening to either country.”
To sum up the article, the Monitor’s editorial said, “Coming to terms with past atrocities need not diminish the love of one’s country - by the Japanese or any people. Behavior is a choice, not a genetic given. Current generations need not be like past ones. Acknowledging the past also opens up a willingness among others to respect a country’s efforts to embrace peace.”
"East Asia's many island disputes should not lead to dangerous clashes but to solutions, such as multilateral negotiations. One path is to agree on the record of old wars and colonialism, and then leave them behind," it concluded.