- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

Hiromu Nonaka, a former secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is one of Japan's most influential lawmakers. Mr. Nonaka, known for his pro-China stance, spoke with reporter Takehiko Kambayashi about Japan-China relations.

Question: While China repeatedly criticizes Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine and school textbooks that critics say whitewash Japan's wartime atrocities, many Japanese retort, "That's their interference in our domestic affairs." Is it?

Answer: Regarding China's recent irritation with the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni and the textbooks, I would respond that basically Japan and China promised noninterference in each other's internal affairs in the Japan-China Peace and Amity Treaty. So we have to tell the Chinese side about it clearly.

Since I went through the war, I know that during the period many good Japanese citizens knew that they would be enshrined at Yasukuni when they were killed in the war. My uncle and a cousin are enshrined at Yasukuni, so I also visit there.

Soon after [Nagayoshi] Matsudaira, who had been a Japanese Imperial Navy captain during the war, became a chief priest at Yasukuni Shrine in 1978, [the names of] Class-A war criminals were enshrined. Since then, that has become a high-profile issue that has prevented the emperor and some leaders from visiting the shrine.

[But] when considering the damage Japan brought to other countries, and the suffering that we [also experienced in Japan] many of young men with their future before them left their families to fight for the country and died somebody had to take responsibility for the war. If nobody had taken responsibility, it would not have been good for the following generations.

Although there are some interpretations of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials (1946-1948) in such terms as "the winners sat in judgment on the losers," the outcome of the trials was agreed under San Francisco Peace Treaty [ of 1951].

I consider it a problem to enshrine Class-A war criminals. I believe we have to bear a grave responsibility for what displeases other countries that suffered damage during the war.


Q: Some Japanese say, "Japan has apologized too much to China for its wartime conduct."

A: I understand there are such opinions out there. That comes from those who don't know the past history. I believe war has various backgrounds. It's not whether one side is 100 percent right or the other is 100 percent wrong. I think [that when] war breaks out, there are reasons on both sides.

[But] it was Japan that undertook military advances on the Chinese continent and brought enormous damage not only to Chinese soldiers but also to good citizens. It's not right to talk about our future without facing up to history. I want [Japan] to build the future while learning solemnly about [the past].


Q: You are probably aware that China as well as other international voices have criticized how Japan presents its war history.

A: When looking back 50 years after the war, [Japan] justified the past in a halfway manner and did not start from a forthright apology for the past, as we should have. This is probably because bureaucracy-oriented politics was at fault. The war left many scars. That is what we have to consider.

But unfortunately, the people at the center of politics now don't personally know about the war. It would be rather impossible to tell them to gain firsthand knowledge of the war. We regret that. I think the older generation like us have to tell them what to say while we are alive.


Q: Is China an economic threat?

A: I think it will become an enormous economic threat. If economic superpower America and China grasp hands with each other, Japan will become an islet at a remote corner of East Asia.

So I believe we have to regard China and North and South Koreas as well as the United States as our important partners.


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