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Asia Unbound

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Showing posts for "70th anniversary"

The Wishes of the Heisei Emperor

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Emperor Akihito (2nd R) and Empress Michiko (R) talk with evacuees from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, at Tokyo Budoh-kan, currently an evacuation shelter, in Tokyo, March 30, 2011 ( Issei Kato/Reuters).

On Monday, in a ten-minute video, Japan’s emperor spoke directly to his people, asking them to allow him to give up the throne prior to his death. In the closed world of Japan’s imperial family, where the Imperial Household Agency largely manages and represents the family’s affairs, Akihito’s decision to challenge precedent seems striking. Yet he also spoke directly to the Japanese people. Now in his eighty-second year, Emperor Akihito has sat on the throne for twenty-seven years, assuming his position upon the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, and ushering in a new era in Japan’s history. His reign is called Heisei—roughly translated as an era where peace can be realized—and yet the Heisei years have been full of change—and challenge—for the Japanese people. Read more »

A Personal Reflection on Today in Hiroshima

by Sheila A. Smith
President Barack Obama, flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, talks with atomic bomb survivor Sunao Tsuboi (Toru Hanai/REUTERS).

I woke up early this morning, before 4 a.m. in fact, to head to NPR to be live when President Barack Obama spoke in Hiroshima. As I drove across a dark and quiet Washington, DC, the president was already beginning what has to be his most moving speech to date. As my city was waking up, the entire Japanese nation was listening to our president, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the atomic bombings. If you have not heard it, you should take a moment to read it here. Read more »

A Trilateral on the Mend

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama stands behind as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the end of their trilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington March 31, 2016 (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS).

For the second time, President Barack Obama brought together President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. The first time in 2014 the president was facilitating a meeting the two leaders could not have on their own, but last week the improving relations between Seoul and Tokyo were obvious. While the United States has facilitated some of these improvements, ultimately it is North Korea and its provocations that brought the two U.S. allies back to the table. Whether the future of this trilateral can be bolder and more resilient remains to be seen. Read more »

The Japan-Korea Comfort Women Deal: Proper Implementation Is What Matters

by Scott A. Snyder
A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 30, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

This post was coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS.

The cycle of negativity surrounding Japan-South Korea relations since the Abe-Park era began in early 2013 has at times eclipsed North Korea as a source of angst among observers of Northeast Asia. Even the modest improvements that accompanied commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic normalization in June 2015 were tinged by frustration over the two governments’ failure to move forward on the comfort woman issue. The main problem involved the acknowledgement of Japanese responsibility for the coercion of girls and women to provide sexual services to the military in imperial Japan, and this disagreement spilled over into other issues in the two countries’ relationship. Read more »

Park’s Decision to Join Xi Jinping’s World War II Commemoration

by Scott A. Snyder
Park Geun-hye Xi Jinping China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in front of Chinese and South Korean national flags during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing, November 10, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters).

Many Western observers are likely to raise their eyebrows tomorrow when they see that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye is standing alongside Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin on the reviewing stand at Tiananmen Square to mark China’s newly established holiday commemorating the end of World War II (WWII). As China’s next-door neighbor and a military ally of the United States, Park may seem to be a big catch for Beijing, which has been lobbying hard for the attendance of Park and other leaders of countries that experienced Japanese aggression during WWII. Some critics have already suggested that Park’s visit is evidence that South Korea cannot resist the growing centripetal pull of Beijing’s orbit. But Park’s presence alongside Xi is less about Park being snared by Beijing than it is about Park pressing to consolidate China’s support for Korean unification in the context of unprecedently weak ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. Read more »

Abe Focuses on Japan’s “Lessons Learned”

by Sheila A. Smith
People watch Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a screen as he gives a statement in Tokyo August 14, 2015 (Thomas Peter/Reuters).

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo today presented his statement on the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II (WWII). Much anticipated and debated, this Abe Statement included the language of statements made on the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries by former prime ministers Murayama Tomiichi and Koizumi Junichiro. But Abe took a different tack from his predecessors, identifying the lessons of that war and defeat, and articulating their link to Japan’s current and future ambitions. Read more »

Why We Should Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller attend a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, August 6, 2015 (Toru Hanai/Reuters).

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons. August 9 will mark the second. The United States, in the culminating days of World War II, dropped these new, devastating bombs on Japan, urging to conclusion Japanese decision making on surrender. Read more »