One of the achievements of Hillary Clinton's era as secretary of state may now turn out unintentionally to be the Japanese reckoning with their own WWII history. A minority nationalist element in Japan has intimidated mainstream political leaders for decades with respect to Japan's role in starting and conducting war in Asia. Instead of openly and repeatedly acknowledging the historical fact of the war crimes committed by their own leaders (and hiding behind the atrocity of the use of atomic weapons on Japanese cities), political discourse in Japan has been stifled with respect to Japanese war crimes, and particularly, the sex slaves. This nationalistic but vocal minority may now have to be confronted. Writing of history cannot be addressed by momentary apologies in 1965 or at any other moment. It may become necessary for a more thorough evaluation of WWII itself within Japan culture which has never occurred. Euphemism and white-washing has been the avoidance mechanism. This is in contrast with how the German political culture has evolved with respect to acknowledging Nazi war crimes and militarism. The international escalation (and Americanization) of the issue now, with Clinton siding squarely with the Koreans, may expose this nationalistic xenophobic streak on the right wing of Japanese politics. All politics is local. However, the Japanese parliamentary leaders (including the prime minister and foreign minister) may be required to stifle these parochial political needs in order to retain respect which Japan covets on the international scene. As the Korean community in the US continues to assure the erection of monuments to these victims (modeled perhaps on Holocaust monuments erected on the initiative of the Jewish community in the US and other countries), the Japanese leadership will no longer be able to sweep the issue under the rug of political discourse as a "Korean" problem. Much will depend on how the Japanese media are permitted to address the issue and report on US public opinion. For friends of Japan in the US who have been chagrined by the Japanese historical white-washing of WWII, it could be an interesting and hopeful moment.
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