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Commentary: Japanese government raises military tensions with China

By Masao Suzuki

U.S. to back Japan in conflict

San José, CA – In the past few days, the Japanese government has accused China provoking Japanese navy ships near the Chinese Diaoyu Islands, which lie about 120 miles northeast of Taiwan. The new nationalist Japanese government is continuing to increase military tensions with China by sending naval forces and military aircraft to the islands, which are occupied by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku Islands. In addition, the U.S. still recognizes the Japanese occupation and says that it will back Japan militarily under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

The Diaoyu Islands were taken from China by Japan following Japan’s victory over the Ching (Manchu) dynasty government of China in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. After the war the Chinese government was also forced to allow Japan to occupy Taiwan, and recognize the independence of Korea, which was later also occupied by Japan. After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the U.S. transferred control of the Diaoyu Islands to Japan instead of returning them to China. The Diaoyu Islands are among the last of the territories seized by Japan during its imperial expansion which began in 1879 with the annexation of Okinawa and ended with Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II in 1945.

The new Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzoo Abe, is a longtime nationalist politician who has tried to downplay Japan’s imperial past and atrocities committed by the Japanese occupation forces in China and other countries. In the 1990s Abe supported attempts to rewrite Japanese history textbooks to claim that the rape and massacre of Nanjing by Japanese troops in 1937, which killed more than 250,000 Chinese, was “open to debate.” Japanese nationalists also tried to revive the false view that the Japanese occupation of East and Southeast Asia was aimed at kicking out European colonists and helped later independence movements.

Abe has also denied the Japanese government’s role in enslaving Korean and Chinese women to be prostitutes for the Japanese military (the so-called ‘comfort women’.) He has visited the Yasukuni shrine, where many of Japan’s Class A War Criminals (those responsible for leading Japan’s brutal occupation during World War II) are interred and has suggested that they were not really war criminals. By trying to cover up and deny Japan’s past of war and occupation, Abe is laying the basis for Japan to try to restore its former imperial glory at the expense of its neighbors, in particular China and Korea. Abe supports changing Japan’s constitution to remove its article on peace, and has been a long-time supporter of expanding Japan’s military. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to increase funding for the military.

Anti-war activists, Japanese American progressives, and supporters of civil liberties need to recognize that the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory taken by Japan in 1895 and see Japan’s military build-up as a threat to peace in the Asia. We also need to oppose the U.S. government’s military backing of Japan, which could further move the U.S. down the road to military conflict with China.

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