Efforts must be made to prevent war memories from fading away

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt should be recognized anew that Japan’s peace and security is based on accumulated postwar efforts.

The government-sponsored national memorial service for the war dead was held with the Emperor and Empress in attendance.

In his address during the ceremony, the Emperor said, “Looking back on the long period of postwar peace, reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated.”

The expression “deep remorse” was first used by the Emperor Emeritus in his speech made during the memorial ceremony for the war dead to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Emperor seems to be considering carrying the thoughts of the Emperor Emeritus, who belongs to the generation of people who experienced the war, into the Reiwa era as well.

With 74 years having passed since the war’s end, the families of the war dead continue to age. Of the people who attended this year’s ceremony, those born in the postwar period accounted for more than 30 percent for the first time ever. In this year’s ceremony, the government introduced a method in which elementary school students and others handed out flowers to be given as offerings by those attending the ceremony. This is aimed at handing down the resolve to maintain peace to the younger generation.

The number of people belonging to bereaved family members associations that console the souls of the war dead in various places around the country has been decreasing and such associations have disbanded one after another. It is essential to continue memorial projects, including the publication of notes written by those with war experience, so as to prevent war memories from fading away and pass on the responsibility of consoling the souls of the war dead.

Pursue pacifist path

Japan recovered independence based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which took effect in 1952.

A special exhibition is being held at the Diplomatic Archives of the Foreign Ministry to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the ministry’s establishment. The script of a speech made by then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida at the time of the peace treaty’s conclusion is on display.

Written on a sheet of rolled paper, the long speech emphasized the resolve to contribute to world peace and stability. The paper was ridiculed by European countries and the United States as being like toilet paper.

Later, Japan assisted developing countries by providing official development aid and the Self-Defense Forces were dispatched overseas to engage in humanitarian and reconstruction projects. Japan must continue to pursue the path of a pacifist nation in contributing to the world.

The peace treaty stipulated that the claims of the South Korean government and people against Japan could be resolved based on an agreement to be concluded by Japan and South Korea. This provided a basis for the conclusion of the bilateral Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation.

The agreement stipulated that problems and claims “were resolved completely and finally.” Based on the agreement, Japan provided South Korea with $500 million in economic cooperation. The problem of compensation for damages demanded by South Korean former wartime requisitioned workers was thus resolved under the agreement.

Solutions to issues left unresolved in the postwar period are still only halfway completed.

The northern territories off Hokkaido continue to be illegally occupied by Russia. Just as for many previous administrations, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had difficulty in proceeding with negotiations to resolve the territorial dispute. The Abe administration is called on to hold bilateral talks steadily and tenaciously urge Russia to make concessions.

The government is responsible for collecting the remains of Japanese people left in former battlefields. It has set a time frame of until March 2025 for intensively carrying out a collection campaign. The collection of the remains should be carried out steadily.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2019)Speech


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