As Americans mark the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, an imbroglio breaks out in Japan over World War II revisionism and calls for rearmament. Japan’s former air force chief Gen. Toshio Tamogami, forced into retirement for denying the empire’s wartime aggression, wasted no time in making even more controversial comments. “I think there should be debate about this, because nuclear deterrence would be enhanced as a result,” the former head of the Air Self Defense Force told reporters Dec. 1 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. Tamogami said that if Japan had had nuclear weapons in 1945, it should have retaliated in kind for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Once you have been hit with something, then there is no choice but to hit back with it,” he said.
He also expressed no contrition for his earlier revisionist comments. “The fundamental aim of history is to teach people to have pride in their nation, patriotism,” Tamogami said, adding that outside of Japan, “people are taught how great and wonderful their country is.” In a standard rhetorical point of Japanese revisionism, he justified the empire’s aggression as resistance to Western colonialism. “The history of the world from the 15th century was one of aggression of white people towards the rest of the world,” he said. “Japan was the last nation that was able to resist aggression from other countries, but now there is only talk of Japan carrying out actions against Korea and China and a tendency to ignore what the white nation-states carried out for hundreds of years.”
Tamogami asserted that Japan’s occupation of Korea and China was beneficial to those countries and was “more gentle” than the policies of the Western imperial powers. “Any nation has positive and negative elements and I believe that if we are told by neighboring countries that Japan was the aggressor and carried out evil acts and we remain silent then this is detrimental to our national interest,” he said. “We should counter-argue by saying what actually happened.” Expressing surprise at the fury his comments provoked in China and North and South Korea, Tamogami claimed that censorship and Allied propaganda led to a “mistaken sense of Japanese history.”
Tamogami had overseen the Air Self-Defense Force mission in Iraq, a point of heated controversy in Japan over whether the operation violates the country’s postwar pacifist constitution. Debate over the issue in in the Diet is down to the level of the number of weapons an individual soldier might carry in order to protect himself. (Bloomberg, The Telegraph, Dec. 1)
Tamogami was dismissed from his post Oct. 31 for writing an essay, entitled “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?,” asserting that Asia had benefited from imperial Japan’s wartime conquests. Tamogami defended that position after his ouster, saying Japan has been subjected to what he called “the history of the victor.” He told a news conference: “I have to say that Japan was not alone in being an aggressor. If you look at what the major world powers were doing at the time, I think Japan was gentler.”
The comments, and similar ones from Japanese officialdom, have re-inflamed tensions with China, following recent moves towards reconciliation. Last year, a group o lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party angered Beijing with a statement that the generally accepted death toll in the “Rape of Nanking” massacre was grossly inflated. (AP, Dec. 2)
See our last post on Japan.
Please support our winter fund drive with a small tip: