Shihoko Goto: Japan's Self-Inflicted Wounds

tags: Nazi Germany, Japan, National Interest, Shihoko Goto



Shihoko Goto is the Northeast Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Asia Program based in Washington D.C.

Praising Nazi Germany’s achievements is hardly a smart move for a public figure in any country. But when a senior Japanese politician lauds Hitler’s efforts to change the constitution to empower himself, it’s hardly surprising that the world would howl with fury. Yet there have been far too many ridiculous comments from too many Japanese leaders at a time when the country’s relations with its neighbors show no signs of improving. As the sixty-eighth anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific theatre approaches, the burning question is the extent to which there is political will, if there is any at all, to bridge the gap between East Asian nations....

With no end to territorial disputes in the East China Sea in sight, this is hardly the time to amp up nationalistic rhetoric based on different perceptions of wartime history. While both China and Japan argue the need to access the resource wealth of the uninhabited islets of Senkaku/Diaoyu, the conflict is actually a result of a clash of national identities. While Japan owns the Senkaku islands under international law, China hotly contests the ruling, and fears of the conflict leading to a military clash show no sign of abating. Meanwhile, Japan continues to dispute the sovereignty of the Takeshima/Dokdo islands, currently administered by South Korea. Prospects for joint develop of resources in either location, which would be an ideal solution, still seem unlikely, given the high stakes of national pride from all three countries.

Yet this is no time to argue about past grievances. It is all too easy for Japan as well as China and South Korea to be mired in nationalist rhetoric, and to insist that their perspective of wartime history is the only truth. What all three neighboring countries must recognize is the need for regional stability to ensure further economic growth across Asia. There is enough political risk with North Korea as it is when it comes to security in East Asia.




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