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Japan's Selective Remorse
Japan Apologizes to Philippines for WWII Atrocities

The Japanese Ambassador to the Philipines, Toshinao Urabe, has publicly apologized for the atrocities committed by the Japanese military there during World War II.  On the country’s “Day of Valor,” the Ambassador addressed a gathering of Filipino war veterans and their families in Pilar, Bataan:

“Seventy-two years have passed. Still, it hurts to remember the hardship and pain suffered by so many during those fateful days. I wish to express our heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse for such inexplicable suffering,” declared ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe on Wednesday before hundreds of Filipino veterans and their families, who celebrated Araw ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat Shrine in Pilar, Bataan.

Urabe said WW II, the deadliest military conflict in history, which killed over 60 million people or 2.5 percent of the world population and between 500,000 and one million in the Philippines, had taught Japan a “valuable” lesson: “The use of force does not create solutions, it only creates problems.”

The word “inexplicable” sounds odd to our ears, but perhaps that’s an awkward translation. There is certainly an explanation for the atrocities: the brutality of the Japanese military.

Japan hasn’t taken nearly as conciliatory a tone with China and Korea, however. Indeed, members of Shinzo Abe’s government have repeatedly refused to apologize to the Chinese and Korean women whom the Imperial Army forced into sexual slavery. Other Abe allies have gone so far as to say that the the Nanjing Massacre, in which about 200,000 people were killed, “never happened.”

Urabe told the gathering that Japan is committed to its pacifist policies, but at home in Japan, Abe continues to take steps to remilitarize the country. This apology may not be enough in itself  to assuage concerns about Japanese militarism, but the gesture of goodwill signals that Japan considers the Philippines a key ally in its attempt to balance an aggressive China.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    It is unjust to blame those now living for atrocities committed by their ancestors. The sins of the father aren’t the sins of the son or the grandson or the great grandson. We today aren’t responsible for the annihilation of Carthage.

    • AndrewL

      Yes, it’s not fair to blame the living for atrocities committed by their ancestors. However, if the living denies the atrocities committed by their ancestors, then they should be taken to task.

      How would Americans feel if Japan claims Pearl Harbor “never happened”?

      How would the Japanese feel if U.S. claims Hiroshima and Nagasaki “never happened”?

      Perhaps Americans and Japanese can empathize with the Chinese reaction when Japan claims Nanjing Massacre “never happened”, or the Korean reaction when Japan claims sexual slavery “never happened”.

      The best way forward for everyone is to sincerely repent for past sins, like Germany did after WWII. Denial is the surest way of keeping historical wound festering.

    • ltlee1

      Perhaps modern Japan has more than the sins of the fathers. Japan’s Emperor on whose name all the atrocities were committed is still sitting on the Japanese throne. Imagine post WWII Germany has the descendant of Hitler as its head of state. How will Europe see this Germany?

  • Breif2

    “Japan hasn’t taken nearly as conciliatory a tone with China and Korea, however.”

    Perhaps because the Philippines is less wont to use this issue as a stick to beat modern Japan with?

    • T Lee

      Irrelevant but I suppose you haven’t read any moral philosophy. An apology isn’t something to be delivered if asked, like a pizza

      • Breif2

        I suppose you haven’t read about Japan’s previous apologies or concrete acts of repentance. Apologies are one thing, self-flagellation on order is another.

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