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North East Asian peoples who can never look to the future

On Saturday, April 9, Chinese people took to the streets in Beijing in yet another wave of anti-Japanese rallies staged to protest the newest versions of junior-high history textbooks that the Education Ministry-sponsored screening body had approved, on Tuesday, as compliant with its guidelines. According to the Japanese media the number of people that pelted stones and pejorative and derogatory words at the Japanese Embassy, banks, restaurants and other businesses reached 20,000, the biggest Japan-phobic crowd since the 1972 normalization of diplomatic ties between the two nations. These people were not only protesting against the newly approved textbooks that "gloss over" or "whitewash" Japan's wartime atrocities against their parents and grandparents, but also campaigning to thwart Japan's desperate bid for buying, "at any cost," a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council. Some say they were just diverting their mounting anger to the wrong government. But they were not really that wrong when they chanted, "(Japan's Prime minister) Koizumi is a dog, and dogs are no good," because from the TFP's point of view, Koizumi is no good at all and he isn't any better than Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

Talking more specifically about the textbook issue, the most revisionist one published by Fuso-sha, one of the publishers in the Fuji-Sankei media group, tries to literally whitewash the wartime atrocities against East Asian people, including the sexual enslavement of women from Japan's backyard countries. On top of that those who penned the controversial textbook for Fuso-sha chose to teach junior-high students that Takeshima Islets should not be considered a loot from the days of Japan's colonial rule just because the islets were not included in the territories that the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty demanded Japan give up.

Weeks before the Beijing rallies, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun started to serve up his people's resentment against the Japan's territorial claim to the almost uninhabited islets that Koreans and Japanese call Tok-do and Takeshima, respectively. Initially what touched off his anti-Japanese campaign was a recent declaration by the Shimane Prefectural Assembly to designate February 22 as "Takeshima Day" to commemorate the Japan's annexation of the islets 100 years ago. Afterward Seoul stepped up its anti-Japanese rhetoric being encouraged by Beijing's move in the wake of the textbook revisions in Japan. Roh also succeeded to refuel his people's deep-seated resentment toward the Japanese. Fanned by Roh, South Koreans also took to the streets not only to rally against the Japan's territorial claim and textbooks but to voice their views that Japan doesn't deserve to be among the permanent members at the UNSC to co-represent the region along with its big brother.

Yet another protracted territorial dispute Japan has long been stuck in is the one with Russia over "hoppo ryodo", or the Northern Territories, which consist of four relatively well-developed islands. While the Japanese government still adheres to a Nikolai Bulganin's 49-year-old lip service, and Leonid Brezhnev's of 1973, more recent Russian leaders have invariably insisted the issue is nonexistent anymore. Hence Koizumi's Foreign Minister Machimura has recently had difficulty just trying to talk Vladimir Putin into the mood of accepting Koizumi's invitation to resume the talks over the nonexistent issue in Tokyo.

Constantly being misled by the Japanese media, quite a few American journalists and analysts now believe that they are seeing a new Japan showing its teeth whenever necessary. Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan recently said, "This is a Japan that doesn't flinch any more." From their point of view, the Japanese media and the "public opinion" they have concocted through push-polls indicate that the Japanese have refrained from directly retorting to the uncivilized way the Chinese and Koreans are expressing their anti-Japanese sentiments simply because the Japanese are by far a more mature people. But this perception that a long-awaited strong and mature Japan is on the horizon now is simply wrong unless the total absence of resolute and sensible actions should be interpreted as a sign of maturity.

Actually it's quite telling that all, not some, of these disputes date back to or are associated with the prewar days or days immediately following WWII. Simply put, the Japanese people haven't been able to get over the trauma they had gone through by the time the second World War ended the way it did. Moreover, we don't see the slightest sign even today that they will be overcoming it anytime soon. Fortunately enough, however, these "issues" are, more or less, of symbolic importance. If there is a real regional issue facing this country today, it is the one over where to draw a demarcation in terms of EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). (See October 27 TFP story titled, "Cut off ODA to China immediately".) Obviously the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the areas where there lie largely untapped undersea gas fields is an exception beacuse unlike the likes of the Yasukuni issue, it involves real and substantial implications for earthly things. But much less is it likely that Japan can strike a deal on the gas fields by the middle of this century with the nation of pirates across the East China Sea. That's too bad but it can't be helped unless the Japanese government reverses its basic China policy which is now characterized by its economic over-dependency on the world's most populous consumer market and one of the world's cheapest labor markets, and politically by its absurd One-China policy. I wonder if the Japanese government has ever drawn a demarcation line to find out what its future EEZ will look like when China finally absorbs the "renegade province."

By saying Japan is always at fault, I'm not defending the other sides of these conflicts, though. Since a dispute also takes two, these North-East Asian peoples really deserve each other. In all likelihood these Far Eastern nations will keep talking, and talking back, in increasingly inflammatory rhetoric, over these symbolic, if not nonexistent, issues well into the middle of this century until we see a sea change in the geopolitics of this region. Among other things the futile dispute over Koizumi's regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine which enshrines the war-dead as well as Class-A war criminals who were executed after the war will go on and on and on endlessly.

This year falls on the 60th anniversary of the most recent apocalypses in history such as those in Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And when the Germans commemorated on February 13 the total destruction of the city of Dresden, you couldn't deny that the way the Germans looked back on the indiscriminate destruction was 180-degrees different from the way the Japanese will look back this summer on the A-bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki six decades ago. Those were the days when the Americans and the Britons hadn't invented the precision-guided stuff yet. But to most of German citizens the shower of incendiaries must have sounded like sweet music of liberation, if I may borrow the words a Baghdadi used when interviewed by a western reporter two years ago. However, on August 6 this year, you'll get killed for blasphemy or something if you dare to liken the explosion of the A-bomb over the city of Hiroshima to a bitter sweet music because many Japanese think the blaze and radiation their parents and grandparents were exposed to in August 1945 had some theological significance which is not really comparable to the inferno in Dresden. Those who survived the apocalypses of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their descendants as well, were baptized with the radioactively-contaminated chrism, sort of, in the presence of one of the 800 gods (see Note below) believed to dwell in this ex-divine nation. Its after-effects should last forever no matter how it is torturous to reminisce the ordeal of the summer of 1945.

Note: Believe it or not, these Japanese gods, as they are collectively called "yaorozu-no kami," are living in an over-populated area of Heaven. Some mythologists even theorize that the ancient word "yaorozu" signifies 8 million, not 800. The worst thing about Japan having as many as 800 or 8 million of them, however, is that the Japanese and the Chinese will never be able to get along very well with each other because the Chinese has none at all to worship, after Mao, that is.

Setting aside the delusional mythology for now, let's face the reality: The Japanese, and other North East Asian peoples for varying reasons, are totally unable, or disabled, to look to the future and will remain that way in the foreseeable future, unless ----. You may ask how I can be so sure that theirs is almost a case of the Freudian fixation (to the past.) I'm damned sure it is, because if ever the Japanese people, and/or Chinese and Koreans, had really wanted to solve these problems that certainly hinder their future in many ways, both sides or either side must have filed their complaints against each other with the International Court of Justice, a long time ago. Take the Takeshima issue, once again, for example: Back in 1954, Tokyo proposed to bring the issue before the ICJ, perhaps as sheepishly as usual. At that time Seoul flatly turned down the Japan's proposal. Ever since the procrastination artists in the Japanese government have decided to let the things drift on an implausible pretext that a mutual consent is a prerequisite for bringing the issue before the international court. The Japanese leaders look determined to set the things adrift until the next time they hear from one of those 800 or 8,000,000 deities.

Under the circumstances, we cannot expect Prime Minister Koizumi or his Foreign Minister Machimura to emancipate themselves anytime soon from their total inability to act because of their pathological fixation to the past. For one thing you should never expect these morbid politicians to be able to bring up a specific, valid and workable proposition at the NPT Review Meeting scheduled to take place in May at the United Nations simply because they just can't look to the future.

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