Never Again Until the Next Time

Maybe I went a little too easy on Japan last week, with the launch of their baby aircraft carrier, the Izumo. What I didn’t know is that the original Izumo was a cruiser that took part in both the Russo-Japanese War and in the 1937 invasion of China. She was an old ship by that time, but China’s memory is long — and should be. But then there’s more from Gideon Rachman:

Such an accusation would be easier to brush aside if the naming of the Izumo was an isolated incident. But just a few days earlier Taro Aso, Japan’s deputy prime minister, was caught suggesting that the Nazis might provide a suitable model for efforts to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution. “We should proceed quietly,” Mr Aso mused. “One day people realised that the Weimar constitution had changed into the Nazi constitution. No one had noticed. Why don’t we learn from that approach?” The unsurprising outcry that greeted these remarks forced an official spokesman to issue a clarification: “The Abe administration does not perceive Nazi Germany in a positive light.”

Just a couple of months earlier, it was Shinzo Abe who committed an offensive gaffe. The Japanese prime minister was photographed giving a thumbs-up from the cockpit of a trainer-jet with the number 731 painted prominently on the side. But 731 was the number of a unit of the Japanese imperial army, notorious for carrying out biological and chemical experiments on humans. I was in South Korea at the time the photo appeared in May – and almost every Korean I spoke to was convinced that it was a deliberate provocation. At the time I dismissed that view as paranoia. But now I am not quite so sure.

I doubt Japan still harbors any imperial ambitions, but given their dreadful history in the first half of the previous century, they really ought to speak more softly when carrying such a big stick.

The fact that we’re still talking about this immediately following the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may be proof enough Japan hasn’t fully learned the lessons of 1945.