December 1, 1998
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: President Jiang Zemin of China went to Japan last week in the first ever state visit to that country by a Chinese leader. Almost from the beginning the past intervened. China wanted a written apology from the Japanese prime minister for his country's actions in China during the 1930s and during World War II. Prime Minister Obuchi did offer a verbal apology but a written statement expressed deep remorse without apologizing. Officials from both sides played down the disagreement, but as he left Tokyo, Jiang Zemin urged the Japanese to reflect on the past as a way to strengthen ties between the two countries. Now we get two views on the role of history in relations between Asia's two most powerful nations. Kunihiko Saito is Japan's ambassador to the United States. And Iris Chang is author of "The Rape of Nanking, The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. Mr. Ambassador, from the point of view of the Japanese government why was there an apology and why did it take the form it did?
KUNIHIKO SAITO, Ambassador, Japan: Well, before answering that question, Ms. Farnsworth, let me say that President Jiang's visit to Japan was a success. Our two leaders agreed to work jointly to build a partnership of friendship and cooperation, and President Jiang, himself, said that his successful visit and a joint declaration issued signified that Japan/China relationship has entered into a new stage of development. Now, as to your question, the Prime Minister expressed feelings of deep remorse and offered apologies both to Korean President and President Jiang. And the ways or means to do so may have been different, but, in substance, there is no difference. He offered sincerely a sense of remorse and expressed sense of remorse and apologized.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Iris Chang, is that how you see it, remorse and an apology, both to Korea's president and to China's president and both equally?
IRIS CHANG, Author, "The Rape of Nanking:" No, that's - I'm afraid that's not how I see it. Japan had promised a written apology to China several weeks ago, and it was a surprise to many overseas Chinese people, as well as, I'm sure, the people of China that written apology was not offered when Jiang Zemin finally did visit Japan. And if it's true that both - that an apology for South Korea is the same as the apology for China, I don't understand why it couldn't have been put in the form of a written apology.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why is a written apology so important?
IRIS CHANG: Well, I think it would send a signal out to the international community, as well as to China, that the Japanese people are genuinely interested in coming to terms with their past. And the resistance to having a written apology, I think, just adds to the distrust that already exists between the two countries.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ambassador, we should explain that the Korean president was in China - was in Japan - excuse me - in October, and there was a written apology to Korea for Japan actions during the time it had colonized Korea. Why not a written apology in both cases, if both cases are somewhat equal?
KUNIHIKO SAITO: Well, as I said, in substance, I don't see any difference between these two treatments.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In other words, the verbal apology is just as important, that's what you're saying?
KUNIHIKO SAITO: Oh, yes, and I wasn't aware that Japanese government ever promised a written apology to the Chinese government. I wasn't aware that Chinese government demanded a written apology from Japanese government. In fact, when Prime Minister verbally said that he wished to express his deep sense of remorse and further apologies, President Jiang said that he welcomed these good remarks. And I really don't see that our two governments had differences of views over this point.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, Mr. Ambassador, do you think the press just made too much of this, and that it's been not treated properly in the U.S. press?
KUNIHIKO SAITO: To be frank, I think that is a case.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How do you respond to that?
IRIS CHANG: Well, I have to say - in all honesty - that the Chinese people are in deep pain for the fact that they don't believe that a sincere - unequivocal and sincere apology has ever been made by Japan to China. And I think that the measure really of a true apology is not what a person or a government gives grudgingly under pressure. A measure of a true apology is what one person feels in his heart when he makes that apology.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Explain something, Ms. Chang. Fifty years later there have been various statements by Japanese leaders in 1972 and 1985 to China expressing remorse, expressing apology. Why did this become such a huge issue at this moment in this meeting when Asia has an economic crisis, there are ecological issues, there are so many things between them, why, at least in the press in this country and in the press in China - I looked at some of the press from China - it was a big issue there - why is this happening?
IRIS CHANG: Well, I think it's because the Japanese government had delivered an apology to the South Korean government, a written apology, and the Chinese government had expected the same a few weeks ago. And I think that the reason why it became an issue was because that expectation was pretty much dashed during Jiang Zemin's visit, which was, I think, certainly a loss of a golden opportunity for Japan to properly show its repentance for the crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army across Asia. It's not something I think that's well known in this country, that more than 19 million to 35 million Chinese people perished because of Japan's invasion of China, and also the fact that Japan had enslaved hundreds of thousands of women, Korean women and other Asian women, as sex slaves for their imperial army. And these war crimes have really left a deep and gaping psychic wound in China and also in other Asian countries.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ambassador, how do you explain why this became - if not in your view truly a big issue at the meeting between the two leaders - an issue in the American press, an issue in the Chinese press? I know that, for example, I read in a translation of one Japanese newspaper article saying it became an issue because the Chinese government uses it to push for concessions from the Japanese in other areas; is that a possible explanation?
KUNIHIKO SAITO: Oh, I don't think so. In the first place, I don't think that was a big issue between our two leaders, and there is completely false notion which seems to persist somehow that Japan has not apologized for its conduct before and during World War II. In fact, we apologized on many occasions, including a joint communiqué issued in 1972 between China and Japan when we normalized relations with China. And in the most comprehensive way Prime Minister Moriyama stated in 1995 that Japan is aware of the sufferings and damages caused on people of Asia countries, particularly Asian countries, and expressed his deep sense of remorse and offered sincere apologies. I don't really understand why some people in those countries refuse somehow to admit that Japan has recognized its responsibility and offered its apologies.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Irish Chang, you've been talking a lot and working with people who have survived the atrocities that were committed in Nanking during the war, which you document in your book. What do they say about this?
IRIS CHANG: Well, most of them believe that Japan has just never given an apology that they find acceptable. And the fact that even now there is so much discussion about how to word the apology, whether the apology should be in writing, it really raises some doubts in the minds of many of the victims that Japan has really properly shown enough repentance for what happened.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What would be enough?
IRIS CHANG: Well, I think what would be enough is a - first of all, for Japan to honestly acknowledge some of the basic facts of these kinds of atrocities, which many revisionists refuse to do, and definitely a written apology, reparations made to the victims, the - I think - inclusion of this - of Japan's wartime aggression in school textbooks in Japan. I think -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So it's not all about the past. It's about a desire that Japan incorporate this in the present in their teachings?
IRIS CHANG: In the present so they could learn from the lessons of the past. And I think that people don't believe that Japan has properly apologized or atoned for what happened because these apologies don't come spontaneously and naturally. You see, I think that if people have a true desire to apologize, they would do so gladly and repeatedly. There wouldn't be all this parsing of words, and, you see, what I'm curious to know is can the ambassador, himself, say today on national TV live that he personally is profoundly sorry for the rape of Nanking and other war crimes against China, and the Japanese responsibility for it?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, my guess is it's probably not what the ambassador's role is, but, Mr. Ambassador -
KUNIHIKO SAITO: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: -- I'll let you respond to that.
KUNIHIKO SAITO: Well, we do recognize that acts of cruelty and violence were committed by members of the Japanese military and we are very sorry for that. And we understand that the memory of those who suffered lasts long, and I personally think that this is a burden which the Japanese people will have to carry for a long time. As to the incident in Nanking, we do recognize that really unfortunate things happened, acts of violence were committed by members of the Japanese military, and I'd like to point out that Japanese school textbooks mention - all of them - when I examined about 20 available textbooks - all of them mentioned this incident in Nanking. So it is - again - a completely false notion that the Japanese tried to conceal the past history from the younger generation. Instead, we make conscious efforts to teach our younger generations about what happened before and during World War II.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We have time only for a brief response from you.
IRIS CHANG: Well, that's not entirely correct, because -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The apology.
IRIS CHANG: The apology.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Did you hear an apology?
IRIS CHANG: I don't know. Did you hear an apology? I didn't really hear the word "apology" that was made. And I think that if he had said genuinely, I personally am sorry for what the Japanese military had done during World War II, I would have considered that an apology. But it's - I think that would have been a great step in the right direction. But, again, there are words that are used such as - words like "regret," "remorse," "unfortunate things happen." It is because of these -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We have to go.
IRIS CHANG: -- these types of wording and the vagueness of these expressions that Chinese people, I think, are infuriated.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you both very much for being with us.
KUNIHIKO SAITO: Well, just one more point -
|Support the kind of journalism done by the NewsHour...Become a member of your local PBS station.|