- - Tuesday, April 28, 2015


This week’s visit to Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, highlighted by Wednesday’s address to a joint session of Congress, ushers in a new era in U.S.-Japan relations. Despite many on the American political left who would prefer to overshadow the visit with another round of apologies for World War II actions 70 years ago, the majority of Americans and Japanese citizens have moved on to a productive relationship that focuses on new avenues in defense strategy, trade and containment of an ever menacing and threatening China.

Mr. Abe’s visit to the White House and historic address to Congress are the follow-up to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s recent visit to Tokyo and the next high-level contacts in an Asian pivot for the Obama administration. The president recognizes that with multiple conflicts in the Middle East brewing, Russia strong-arming Ukraine and a divided U.S. reaction to the an Iranian nuclear deal, accomplishment and a foreign policy legacy for this administration during the next two years will rest heavily on the alliance between the largest and third-largest economies. China’s actions creating the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have accelerated the need for the United States and Japan to formalize and reassert political, defense, economic and social partnerships.

In Japan, Mr. Abe has fashioned himself as the new type of Japanese prime minister who would like to play a role in diplomacy in the world’s ever-growing list of hot spots. While the Japanese people are split on the his ever-increasing international platform, Mr. Abe has set out to burnish a legacy highlighted by a Japan that will contribute to international stability both in humanitarian and defense interests. His domestic proposal to update Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and ease restrictions on defense involvement throughout the world are a window for Americans into the Japan of the next decade. To some in Japan, the prime minister is focusing on the world and overshadowing a Japanese economy that has remained sluggish for 20 years and once again has been labeled in recession, but more realistically he understands the linkage between the domestic economic atmosphere and Japan acting as a responsible and active member on the world stage. The tragic murder of two Japanese citizens by the Islamic State group following the dedication by Japan of $200 million in humanitarian aide was a sober reminder that no one is safe from Islamic fanaticism, and all of us need to be partners and vigilant in recasting the war-torn Middle East.

Highlighting this week’s visit will be finalization of a new U.S.-Japan defense agreement that will define a new set of bilateral defense rules to protect against missile threats from North Korea, and China’s moves to assert control off its coast. For the Obama administration, the show piece for U.S.-Japan relations rests with six years of work by the U.S. trade representative on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement being negotiated with 11 Pacific countries. Focusing on an estimated 100 different trade categories, the TPP mixes necessary 21st century updates on agriculture, intellectual property and investments with a strong warning to China that its paternalistic Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will not be at the center of an ever-growing and influential Asia. Despite warnings by the president’s party on how TPP will attack labor, farmers, food safety and public health, it is expected to pass, now that Mr. Obama has been granted fast-track authority by the U.S. Congress.

Unfortunately, while the executive leadership of our two nations is focused on enhancing our strategic alliances, some in the president’s party in Congress refuse to let historians examine the accuracy of World War II and instead, are intent on writing their own conclusion by threatening economic advancement and world safety until Mr. Abe reasserts and further rephrases and enhances a 1990s acknowledgment and apology for war actions.

In Japan, we are left to wonder how the American left can herald a new relationship with Cuba without demanding acknowledgment of Kennedy-era threats and, more recently, allow an Iranian nuclear agreement without first demanding an apology from the theocracy for the kidnapping of American citizens in 1979, the destruction of sovereign property and the support for their proxies in Lebanon and Syria who have committed human rights abuses and crimes against U.S. citizens. This is the same Iran that is allied with North Korea, today holds a U.S. Christian pastor as well as countless other westerners illegally and against this wills and, to this day, advocates through their secular and religious leadership the destruction of Israel, the sole true democracy in the region.

Historians looking at the World War II era acknowledge Japanese research that indicates inaccuracies regarding the so-called Nanking Massacre and the use of “comfort women” as sex slaves. For its part, the Japanese government dating back decades has acknowledged the accusations which, in large part, are increasingly fueled by the Beijing government to counteract the Chinese regime’s own deplorable human rights record.

In the end, Mr. Abe will make some statement this week to the U.S. Congress acknowledging the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this August, and again as this date approaches. World War II for our two great nations — including the actions and the tragedies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — should never be forgotten. It will be forever recorded in our history books and debated, but in no way should it stand in the way of progress and a relationship that can only benefit our people and the rest of the world.

Yuki Oikawa is executive director of the Institute for Research in Human History and director of foreign affairs for the Happiness Realization Party of Japan.

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