Hiroshima marked the 62nd anniversary of the world’s first atomic bomb attack Aug. 6, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrambled to mend fences with survivors still outraged by comments from a cabinet member apologizing for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan’s historic first post-war Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, an Abe appointee, said in a June speech, “I understand that the bombings ended the war, and I think that it couldn’t be helped.” Kyuma was forced to step down in the outcry following the comments, but still retains his seat in the Diet, where he represents—perversely—Nagasaki.
Survivors demanded an apology and a meeting with Abe. Both were granted, and in the meeting, Abe promised to expand medical support for hibakusha still suffering cancers and liver disease from the 1945 atomic blasts. There are about 252,000 survivors of the attacks still alive. “Now that 62 years have passed since the atomic bombings, we must provide fuller medical and welfare measures,” Abe said during the public portion of the event.
Abe made the requisite anti-nuclear weapons homilies on the occasion. “Japan has been taking the path toward global peace for 62 years since World War II. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should never be repeated in any place on earth,” he said in his speech at Hiroshima Peace Park, near the bomb’s epicenter. “We will take an initiative in the international community and devote ourselves wholeheartedly toward the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of peace.” (AP,Aug. 5)
But the irony of the comments is obvious, given Abe’s aggressively pro-remilitarization stance—and the fact the he had appointed the reviled Kyuma to head Japan’s first post-war Defense Ministry. We have noted before how Bush’s need for partners in Iraq is abetting Japanese remilitarization—and by extension, Japanese revisionism about its own World War II atrocities. What a telling irony that members of Japan’s ruling political elite are now also embracing US revisionism about the war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.