Settling Historical Issues Will Continue to Be Crucial
Okuhara: I would like to take up the "three aberrations and the world current" as a theme of our discussion today. At the JCP Congress held a year ago, we analyzed the following three aberrations of the Liberal Democratic Party government policies: Japan's failure to have remorse over its past war of aggression, its subservience to the United States, and the priority given to defending the interests of large corporations. We also made clear the Japanese Communist Party's position of opposing these policies. Let us first talk about the present state of Japan in a global context.
Shii: Look at the "three aberrations" from two points of view, "contradiction with citizens" and "contradiction with the world current" and you will see them from critical aspects and identify the current that has a future. Let me talk about these aberrations mainly in the context of the world situation.
U.S. Congress resolution on 'comfort women' issue - Japanese government must sincerely fulfill its international responsibility
Okuhara: Let's first talk about the Japanese government position of justifying Japan's past war of aggression.
Shii: I believe that among 192 U.N. member countries, Japan is the only country affected by powerful forces that justify the country's war of aggression during WW II.
Abe Shinzo became prime minister after Koizumi Jun'ichiro and brought about certain positive changes in diplomacy to the extent that he held summit talks with the Chinese and South Korean leaders. However, it only marked the beginning of efforts to resolve the pending issues.
The new U.S. Congress is expected to take up again a resolution calling on the Japanese government to accept its responsibility for abusing women in other Asian countries as military "comfort women" during Japan's war of aggression. The resolution was passed through the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs last September but was not enacted. It has been revealed that lobbying activities on behalf of the Japanese government prevented the House from putting it to a vote in the plenary session. This revelation is taken as a serious problem in the United States.
Okuhara: It was reported that the Japanese government has paid $60,000 a months to a Washington lobbying firm.
Shii: Prime Minister Abe has promised to honor the "Kono statement" admitting that the Japanese military was involved in and responsible for the establishment and management of the "comfort stations" and for transferring "comfort women." He should sincerely fulfill the promise that the government made internationally to teach the next generations about this terrible crime as part of history education.
Work to share basis of historical awareness is essential for future friendship
Shii: The other viewpoint is that the Japanese government should seriously implement the agreement reached at summit meetings with China and South Korea to share a common view of basic historical facts.
One thing that struck me during my visit to South Korea last September was that there is a huge gap between Japanese and South Korean peoples concerning the knowledge of basic historical facts. In my meeting with undergraduate and graduate students at Yonsei University, I found that they have a good knowledge of the Korean people's sufferings and struggles during the colonial period, including the March 1 Movement, an independence movement that arose on March 1, 1919 throughout Korea, as well as about Yoo Gwan Soon, a girl who led the movement and died in the repression at the age of 18.
Okuhara: The fact of Japan's colonization is not known very well in Japan.
Shii: No, it isn't. There is a major difference in political awareness. Although it is difficult for Japanese people to have the same view as other Asian people on all historical issues, if it is to build true friendship with them, I believe it necessary for Japan and other Asian countries to share a basic knowledge of historical facts at the government level as well in people-to-people relations. For that matter, it will be important to share the knowledge about forces that existed and worked for peace and conscience in each country. In this respect, I am convinced that the history of the JCP, whose members risked their lives to oppose the war of aggression and colonization, can be the bridge for friendship between Japan and other countries in Asia.
From Military Alliances to Communities of Peace
Okuhara: Let's talk about the second aberration, "subservience to the United States." Prime Minister Abe publicly states that he wants to have the Constitution revised during his term of office. The aim of the constitutional revision that he wants to achieve is to enable Japan to directly take part in U.S. wars in response to U.S. requests. This shows the extreme extent of Japan's subservience to the United States. It is extraordinary from an international viewpoint, isn't it?
Shii: It is, indeed. I would like to know if there are any other countries that are as enthusiastic as Japan about strengthening military alliances and increasing readiness to send troops abroad. The aim of the constitutional revision that Prime Minister Abe seeks to achieve is to turn Japan into a nation that will fight wars abroad together with the United States. However, this goes directly against the world trend for peace.
Okuhara: You think Japan doesn't fit in with the world trend at all.
Shii: Correct. There were three events that caught my attention last year.
U.S. hegemonic invasion of Iraq and its diplomacy toward North Korea
Shii: First, the present state affairs in the United States.
Last year, the failure of the Iraq War became clearer than ever. Although the United States started the Iraq War by declaring that it would last only two weeks, it has become longer in duration than the Pacific War (Dec. 1941 - Aug. 1945). The situation turned into a quagmire.
The United States made two major mistakes. To begin with, it was wrong to launch a war of aggression in disregard of the U.N. Charter. The other mistake was the subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussad said, "The gates of hell are open in Iraq." There are Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq. To suppress the Sunni resistance, the United States recruited Shia Muslims into the Iraqi army and police. Using the Shia-Sunni conflict as a leverage, the United States took the worst approach in establishing an occupation administration in Iraq. This, in fact, dragged the country into "a state of civil war."
Okuhara: Last autumn, President George W. Bush's ruling Republican Party suffered a severe defeat in the midterm election.
Shii: The U.S. public has abandoned Bush. Later in the year, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) published a report. While containing many weaknesses, it proposed a gradual pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq by 2008. President Bush initially made a favorable comment on this report, but rejected it in the end. He even said, "Considering dispatching more troops to Iraq is also an option." The situation in Iraq shows that the United States still clings to maintaining its hegemony with military power, even though such a policy is failing.
We also need to pay attention to U.S. foreign policy developments in East Asia. Last year, a crisis situation emerged over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. In this case, unlike in Iraq, the United States did not consider responding to it by launching a war on North Korea.
Okuhara: Apparently, the United States is trying to find a diplomatic solution to the problem.
Shii: That's true. When North Korea conducted a nuclear test explosion, the JCP expressed a protest against it and called for the North Korea issue to be resolved peacefully through diplomacy based on international unanimity. Subsequent events showed that this JCP position was embraced by the international community, including the United States.
The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in this direction. China's State Council member Tang Jiaxuan carried out active diplomacy for the resolution, as did the United States led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In this course of developments, agreement was reached to hold the next round of the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program, which resumed later in the year.
Although difficult, the United States is dealing with East Asian issues mainly using a non-military approach focusing on diplomacy.
Okuhara: Does this indicate that military-only responses are no longer effective in U.S. policy?
Shii: Correct. In Iraq, the United States is clinging to maintaining its hegemony with military power. But apparently, the United States has become aware that this approach is a failure and that it is increasingly isolated in the world. We used more than one angle in analyzing the U.S. moves at the JCP Congress last year. Later developments show that this analysis was correct.
Despite the fact that even the United States finds it difficult to deal with issues by a military-only approach and recognizes the need for diplomacy, the Japanese government does not understand this. In the firm belief that a military response is the only way for the United States to take, the Japanese government is following only the negative aspects of U.S. policies.
Okuhara: Japan's government is subservient to the United States, but it does not fully understand what the United States is doing.
Shii: The JCP has a much better understanding of U.S. policies than the Japanese government. No superpower can control world affairs with military power alone, as proven by the developments in Iraq. Notwithstanding this, the Japanese government is trying to change the peace Constitution and turn Japan into a country that takes part in wars abroad together with U.S. forces. It's the height of folly.
Military alliances are a relic from previous century
Okuhara: The LDP government continues to regard the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty as absolute. However, military alliances are now outdated in the light of the direction of the world.
Shii: Yes. I think this is the second point we should pay attention to in analyzing the present world situation. In the 21st century, military alliances are being dissolved or weakened, or becoming dysfunctional. During the period of the Cold War, military alliances were commonplace. The United States was at the center of a global network of military alliances, countered by the Soviet Union forming a similar network. Under these circumstances, the world was suffocating. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact military alliance disappeared.
On the U.S. side, three military alliances have either gone or became dysfunctional. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was dissolved in the wake of the U.S. defeat in its war of aggression against Vietnam. The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was dissolved following the Iranian Revolution. The ANZUS Treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States became dysfunctional after New Zealand declared itself nuclear-free. In the Americas, there is a military alliance known as the Rio Treaty but it has ceased to function due to the democratic changes going on in Latin American countries. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been drifting since France, Germany, and Canada expressed their opposition to the Iraq War, causing a division in the military alliance.
In Asia, the United States maintains two military alliances; one with Japan and the other with South Korea. Recently, the U.S.-ROK military alliance has entered a new phase with the United States reducing its military presence in South Korea. Whether command authority should be transferred from the United States to the ROK in the event of an emergency is being discussed today. I think that the ROK is trying to act independently even though it still remains within the framework of the military alliance with the United States.
All this shows that Japan is the country that enthusiastically seeks to maintain and even strengthen the military alliance with the United States by extending its coverage to the entire world. Thus, Japan is the only country that goes against the world current for peace.
Okuhara: What an extraordinary country Japan is!
Shii: The world current shows that military alliances are becoming a relic from the previous century.
Communities for peace are being established in various parts of the world
Shii: The era of military alliances is over. I think that it has been replaced with an era of communities. The dissolution of military alliances has been followed by the development of independent communities for peace in various parts of the world.
For instance, in East Asia, the TAC (Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia) promoted by the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is increasing its number of participants. In addition to the 10 ASEAN member states, China, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Australia have ratified the TAC. Covering 53 percent of the world population, it is growing rapidly.
The SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) is another group of countries worthy of attention. At its summit meeting held last June to mark its 5th anniversary, the SCO adopted a joint declaration calling for the creation of a peaceful international order based on the U.N. Charter, mutual respect between diverse cultures, mutual exchanges on an equal footing, and harmonious co-existence. With China and Russia, and Central Asian and South Asian countries participating, the SCO is developing as an organization that includes large countries in central Eurasia.
In South America, the South American Community of Nations (CSN) was established with all 12 South American nations participating. In December last year, the CSN held its second summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia and adopted a declaration calling for "a new model of integration with its own identity, pluralist, among diversity and differences" (Cochabamba Declaration). The principles set forth in the declaration for integration were the strengthening of multilateralism, adherence to the principles and purposes of the United Nations, respect for the right of self-determination of nations, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes.
Countries that make up the CSN are making very significant efforts. In May 2005, leaders of South American and Arab countries met together for a summit in Brasilia and established cooperative and friendly relations between themselves. In November 2006, the CSN held a summit meeting with the African Union (AU) in Nigeria and adopted the Abuja Declaration that called for respect for the U.N. Charter and international law and for peace to be built through multilateralism. The CSN is reportedly planning to hold a meeting with Asian leaders.
Regional communities for peace are being formed in various parts of the world, and they are beginning to create networks for cooperation. Their common objective is to create a peaceful order based on the U.N. Charter, establish a just and democratic economic order, and oppose unilateralism, whether military or economic. Based on such shared principles, networks for peace are being formed throughout the world. I believe this is a very promising development.
Difference between military alliances and regional communities for peace
Okuhara: What is the difference between military alliances and regional communities for peace?
Shii: They are very different. To begin with, military alliances always have "imaginary enemies." They look for outside "enemies".
Okuhara: They desperately try to find such enemies even if there aren't any, don't they?
Shii: You're right. They need enemies even though they are nonexistent. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United States panicked because it lost its "enemy." So, the United States tried hard to "create enemies." In recent years, the United States labels some countries "rogue nations" and designates them as U.S. "enemies." It has also said that "terrorists" are the "enemy." It is always trying to identify and confront enemies as the main job responsibility of the president of the United States.
However, regional communities for peace do not have any "imaginary enemies." These communities are open to the outside world. For example, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) has recently invited the United States to join the TAC, though the United States is unwilling to join. Each community has no outside "enemy" to deal with and is completely open to every country, thus making networks of mutual cooperation possible throughout the world.
The second is that their internal structures are different. Military alliances consist of subordinate-superior relationships led by "leader countries." The Japan-U.S. military alliance may be the best example of this. Such alliances have nothing in common with the idea of equality among member countries or the idea of respecting each country's sovereignty. In contrast, regional communities for peace are made up of countries that have equal rights and stand firm in respecting each other's sovereignty.
Okuhara: That impresses me with the fact that regional communities for peace are forming a major world trend. I hope that Japanese politics will become part of this trend.
Shii: Northeast Asia has the framework of the Six-Party Talks. If it achieves its goal of establishing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula by overcoming all the difficulties that this framework is experiencing, it will lead to creating a community for peace in this region. From this viewpoint, it is important to work to make a success of this framework.
Okuhara: You participated in the 4th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties in Seoul (September 2006). The conference's theme was building an "Asian community," wasn't it?
Shii: Yes, it was. The unanimous "Seoul Declaration" adopted by the assembly states, "It is our ultimate goal to build an Asian community that will bring about permanent peace and shared prosperity in the region and enrich the minds and spirits of all our peoples." My speech was entitled, "To realize an Asian community for peace," and I think it was consistent with the assembly's fundamental goal.
Non-aligned movement is gaining new dynamism
Okuhara: The movement of non-aligned countries has been developing since the end of World War II, and it appears to have taken on new dynamism.
Shii: That's the third point that I want to make. Last September, a Japanese delegation led by Director General Akiniwa Toshio of the Japan Asia Africa Latin America Solidarity Committee took part in the 14th Non-Aligned Summit held in Havana in Cuba as observers. Kasai Akira (JCP member of the House of Representatives and JCP International Bureau deputy director) and Sugawara Hiraku (JCP International Bureau staff member) were members of the Japan AALA delegation. They briefed me about the dynamic development of the non-aligned movement.
History shows that the non-aligned movement has developed roughly in three stages since the first summit in 1961.
The first period was from 1961 to 1991, the year when the Soviet Union broke up. This was the era of the Cold War. During this period, the NAM was a force that had refused to join any military block, whether U.S.-led or Soviet-led. With their non-aligned and neutral positions, they played an important role in defending world peace as well as the right of national self-determination. Their activities in those days, however, were often restricted by the U.S.-Soviet confrontation.
The second period was between 1991 and recent years. At that time, there was an argument that the NAM no longer was necessary because of the end of the Cold War. The NAM managed to overcome such an argument by standing firm against any kind of hegemonism.
The latest summit stressed that the NAM is now in a third phase. They state that all NAM members, by overcoming difficulties in the second phase, can become the main players in contemporary world politics. The movement is being revitalized. Participants were saying that all countries in the world should be part of the driving force for remaking the world. I think this is indeed a very significant development.
Okuhara: How many countries are participating in the NAM conference?
Shii: A total of 118 countries, including several new comers. Besides, 15 countries, including China, Brazil, and Mexico, participated in the conference as observers. So, the NAM is comprised of 133 countries that embrace about 80 percent of the world population. The NAM's development has helped countries speak up and act as the main players in international politics. Kasai told me that each speaker at the Havana session gave very interesting speeches.
Small Caribbean countries have the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and have deepened their relations with Cuba and Venezuela in the fields of medical services and energy. In the Organization of American States (OAS) general assembly last year, they jointly called for rejection of a U.S. proposal for intervention in Venezuela's internal affairs.
At the NAM summit, representatives from smaller Caribbean countries with a population of 120,000 or less made clear that they are opposed to any unilateralism for hegemony, although they stopped short of criticizing the United States by name. They called for actions based on the United Nations Charter for a world peace.
The NAM summit was fully committed to the idea that all countries, regardless of size, are entitled to become the key players in world politics on an equal footing.
The JCP Program makes it clear that Japan will participate in the non-aligned movement if it establishes a democratic Coalition Government. In this sense, it's very important that the evolving NAM is the major promoter of world politics for peace.
Okuhara: Yes, indeed.
Neo-liberalism failing across the world
Okuhara: Let's turn to the large corporation-oriented policy, the third aberration. The neo-liberal economic policy that the Abe Cabinet took over from the previous Koizumi Cabinet seeks freedom as much as possible for business circles and large corporations to make money in any manner they like. Although this economic policy is prevalent in Japan, neo-liberalism has become very unpopular across the world.
Shii: Yes, indeed. As a policy of ensuring the freedom of corporations to make profits, neo-liberalism has brought about a cold society in which the law of the jungle prevails. A recent increase in poverty and social gaps has become a serious problem in Japan. It's really shameful and anomalous that Japan, the second largest economic power in the world, is confronted with increasing poverty.
Democratic transformations in Latin America making great progress
Shii: Looking back on last year, the democratic transformations that progressed profoundly and extensively in Latin America are remarkable.
Last October, Brazilian President Lula was reelected with far more votes than he received in the previous election. In November, Ortega, a former Nicaraguan president, won in the presidential election after a lapse of 16 years. In the same month, a left-wing government was established in Ecuador. In December, Venezuelan President Chavez was reelected for a third term with a landslide victory.
A left-wing government was established in Venezuela in 1998, in Brazil in 2002, in Argentine and Paraguay in 2003, in Uruguay in 2004, and in Bolivia in 2005. In addition to these changes, we witnessed the above mentioned eye-opening victories last year.
Furthermore, in the presidential elections held last year in Costa Rica, Columbia, Peru, and Mexico, where neo-liberalism became a major issue, left wing candidates calling for economic democracy and independent nation-building came close to wining. They lost by a margin of as narrow as 0.5 percent point in Mexico and one percent point in Costa Rica.
In Venezuela and Brazil, the governments have taken root with a more solid basis, thus carrying out their democratic transformations more profoundly. This current has been spreading not only in South America but also in Central America. It was really good to see such a development.
Okuhara: Latin America is a region that has been greatly affected by the negative effects of neo-liberalism.
Shii: Exactly. In the 1980s and the 1990s, countries in this region were forced by the IMF, led by the U.S. to adopt policies of deregulation, liberalization of the introduction of foreign capital, privatization, and the cutting of social welfare services. Basic industries and services such as power, telephones, railroads, postal services, and pension systems were privatized and forced to serve foreign capital. As a result, gaps between the rich and the poor dramatically widened and poverty increased. These contradictions have brought about the new situation in which the current of democratic transformation is spreading across the region. Countries located so close to the United States are thoroughly rejecting neo-liberalism.
The British newspaper The Guardian on December 4, 2006 carried an article entitled, "Continent of the left." It said, "It is difficult to see any alternative to left-of-centre rule in Latin America ... it is hard not to see hope in the continuing victories of movements that have brought huge numbers of hitherto excluded and marginalised people into politics."
What's more, all these transformations have been carried out with the support of the majority as expressed in elections. Since transformation could provoke backlashes, some countries may experience them in the future. However, from the global point of view, it is very significant that in this region the movement for social progress is taking place in a magnitude that will be impossible to stop.
Okuhara: The Venezuelan Ambassador to Japan visited the Akahata festival last November.
Shii: I met him there. I was very impressed that the ambassador had delightedly said, "UNESCO declared that Venezuela is a country where illiteracy no longer exists. The FAO announced that Venezuela accomplished the U.N. millennium goals [including poverty reduction] before the deadline."
Remarkable political advance made in India
Okuhara: In India, a country with a very large population, a positive change took place last year.
Shii: We received exciting news from India about victories of leftists in state assembly elections in April and May last year. The leftists led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) won overwhelming victories in elections in West Bengal and Kerala states and gained the overwhelming majority of assembly seats. In West Bengal, the Left Front won 235 out of 294 seats, or more than three-forth of the total seats. In this state, the leftists came to power in 1977 and have maintained it for 30 years through election victories seven times in a row.
Kerala State, located in south of the west coast of India, was the first Indian state in which a leftist government was established. After several defeats, the Left Front returned to power in the recent election by obtaining 98 out of 140 seats.
Tripura State also has a leftist government. Together with West Bengal and Kerala, these three states are governed by leftists. The total population in these states is about 122 million, equivalent to that of Japan. Thus, a major change is taking place there.
India is a nation with a federal system, and the central government is in charge of military and foreign affairs. But a great deal of domestic authority is given to state governments. Having its own chief minister and ministers, each state in India has very strong power. At the central level, the CPIM that is supporting the government from outside the cabinet has a strong influence on the government that governs the nation with a population of 1.1-billion. The CPIM also takes part in the leftist government in the three states. I believe this is a great change.
The ruling leftist governments in these states explained this change in this way: While the central government is promoting neo-liberal policies, the state governments led by leftists are striving to carry out residents-oriented programs in opposition to the central government policies. These state governments set out alternative policies defending important public sectors and supporting the poor.
I visited the state of West Bengal about four years ago and held talks with State Chief Minister Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. There we saw the state government's passionate efforts in eradicating poverty by providing the poor with medical care, housing, education, and job training. We were impressed by the strength of the leftist government that is deep-rooted in the people.
Japan and the U.S. competing for top place in poverty rate; neo-liberalism has no future
Okuhara: We have seen here the global failure of neo-liberalism. The originator of neo-liberalism, the United States, also, has many problems.
Shii: In Japan, we also use the English term "working poor," which was first used in the U.S. In fact, things get worse in every field in the U.S. According to an OECD survey conducted in 17 developed capitalist countries, the U.S. is ranked at the top in terms of the poverty rate. Japan is following the U.S. with a narrow margin, competing with the U.S. for the worst.
The U.S. has no universal public health insurance system. People cannot receive adequate medical care unless they pay expensive premiums to insurance companies such as ALICO and Aflac. Uninsured patients cannot receive operations if they are taken to hospitals.
The U.S. also has shown the failure of neo-liberalism in a very dramatic manner.
I am confident that global developments have already declared that neo-liberalism has no future.
Let's make 2007 a year marking hopeful advances in Japan
Okuhara: Last year, the JCP produced new achievements in its opposition party diplomacy by sending delegations to South Korea and Pakistan.
Shii: I really feel that the JCP's opposition party diplomacy has great significance not only in contributing to peace and friendship in the world but also enriching our own understanding of the world.
In light of the dynamic progress of the world situation, it is clearer than ever that LDP politics with the three aberrations has no future. We will make every effort to make 2007 a year marking hopeful advances in Japan.
Interviewer: Akahata Director Okuhara Toshiharu - Akahata, January 1, 2007