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History of Japanese Militarism and Circumstances Concerning the Issue of Yasukuni Shrine
2014-01-16

I. Expansion and Collapse of Militarist Japan

After the Meiji Restoration (Meiji Ishin), Japan took the path of "fukoku kyohei" (enrich the country, strengthen the military) and began its external expansion and aggression in the sea and on land.

Stage One: Expansion in the East China Sea. Japan annexed the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1872 and turned it into Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. In 1874, Japanese troops invaded Taiwan under the excuse of Ryukyu fishermen being harassed by Taiwan ethnic minorities. In 1885, Japan conducted some fact-finding missions to Daioyu Dao and attempted to invade and occupy the island. In 1894, Japan waged the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. In January the following year, Japan stole Diaoyu Dao and forced the Qing court to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April, under which China ceded Taiwan to Japan and paid Japan 230 million tael of silver.

StageTwo: Expansion on land. Through the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Japan also gained control over China's Liaodong Peninsula, only to give it up due to the intervention of Russia, France and Germany. Japan thus perceived Russia as the biggest obstacle in its on-land expansion strategy and started its "Gashin Shotan" movement (persevering through hardship for the sake of revenge). It ferociously scaled up its armed forces, vying with Russia for hegemony. In 1904 Japan waged the Russo-Japanese War and signed with Russia the Treaty of Portsmouth in the following year. The treaty forced Russia to recognize Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula, renounce part of its power in Northeast China to Japan and cede the southern half of the Island of Sakhalin to Japan. In 1905, Japan declared Korea its protectorate before its full annexation of Korea in 1910.

After World War I broke out, Japan declared war against Germany and took this as an opportunity to invade China's Qingdao and Shandong Peninsula. In 1918, at the time of the October Revolution in Russia, Japan invaded Siberia. Japan's evil ambition raised the alert of European countries and the United States. Under increased international pressure, Japan gave up its claims over Shandong and withdrew from Siberia. But with the pro-invasion forces taking the upper hand inside Japan, Japan's relations with the west deteriorated and the country became increasingly hostile to China's national revolution and the unification process between northern and southern China. During the Northern Expedition (a military campaign led by Kuomintang to unify China), Japan instigated the Jinan Incident (May 3 Tragedy) and Huanggutun Incident to obstruct China's unification. In 1927, the Tanaka Giichi administration held a Far East Conference which adopted the Tanaka Memorial a full expression of Japan's wild ambition to conquer the entire world. The memorial preached, "in order to take over the world, you need to take over China; in order to take over China, you need to take over Manchuria and Mongolia." In 1931, Japan plotted the September 18 Incident (Mukden Incident), established the puppet state of Manchukuo and incited independence of China's Inner Mongolia and "autonomy" of five provinces in northern China.

In 1937, Japan launched a full-scale invasion into China by provoking the Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao) Incident and occupied over half of China. During its invasion in China, Japan committed the Nanjing Massacre, the Chongqing Bombing and the massacres in Pingdingshan and other places. In the anti-Japanese bases, Japan implemented the policy of "burn all, kill all and loot all". It used chemical and biological weapons and its Unit 731 conducted experiments on living human bodies. It also forcefully recruited Chinese laborers and comfort women. Throughout the war against Japanese aggression, China suffered 35 million casualties, 100 billion US dollars in direct economic losses and 500 billion US dollars in indirect losses.

Stage Three: Expansion to the Pacific. In December 1941, Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed the US Pacific Fleet, leading to the outbreak of the Pacific War. China, the United States and the United Kingdom simultaneously declared war on Japan, which, for quite some time, occupied the whole of West Pacific, including Southeast Asia. Japan created numerous massacres in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar and other places, killed hundreds of thousands of local people, Chinese included, and tortured many prisoners of the Allies to death. By containing and destroying most of the Japanese army in the Eastern theater of the World Anti-Fascist War, China provided effective backing for the European theater. At the same time, the United States launched counter attacks from the sea. In August 1945, the Soviet Union joined the war and the United States air-dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Finally, Japan was forced to declare unconditional surrender and accepted the Cαiro Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, in which it was deprived by the Allies of all the territories it took through invasion and expansion. That marked the complete failure of Japan's militarist policy since modem times of invading and expanding to the continent and the sea.

After World War II, with the start of the Cold War, the United States shifted its policy over Japan from "reform" to "support". Japanese militarist crimes were thus not thoroughly exposed and punished. With the support of the United States, Japan made territorial claims over the "four northern islands" that were under the occupation of the Soviet Union. In 1972, the United States "returned" Okinawa to Japan. Japan then seized the chance to illegally take control of Diaoyu Dao.

II. Japan's False View of History Embodied in the Yushukan Museum

The Yushukan Museum is a war museum located in the Yasukuni Shrine. Established in 1882, it stores the trophies, documents, weapons and personal items of Japanese soldiers killed in wars from the time of Meiji Restoration to WWII. It is Japan's first military museum and its biggest war museum. The name of the museum "Yushu" comes from a line in the article An Exhortation to Leαrning by ancient Chinese philosopher Xunzi: "When a gentleman settles down, he would select a good neighborhood and when he travels, he would only associate with and learn from people of high principle in order to steer away from evil and maintain his integrity." The name .of the museum suggests that the war criminals honored in the Yasukuni Shrine are people of high principle and the war of aggression waged by militarist Japan is a just cause. The Yushukan Museum is the most important part of the Yasukuni Shrine and a key facility to glorify Japan's war of aggression. A false view of history, embodied in the captions and exhibitions in the museum, blatantly advocates militarism and a wrong perspective on history, glorifies militarists and whitewashes Japan's acts of aggression.

1. Covering up and distorting history. Japan attributes the war to the "provocation" and "oppression" by the United States, the United Kingdom and even China and portrays its aggression as a holy war for national defense.

The Japanese depiction of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident is: On the night of 7 July, the 12th year of the Showa reign (1937), a Japanese detachment (Kiyomoto Squadron) was shot at when it was training at a drill ground near the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing's suburbs. The next morning, the Ichiki Battalion heading there was also shot at and exchanged fire with the Chinese army in the city of Wanping. The skirmish at the Marco Polo Bridge escalated into the "Incident of Northern China" as a result of illegal attack by regular Chinese troops on Japanese soldiers and counterattack by the Japanese, turning the whole of northern China into a battlefield. It happened against the background of Chinese refusal to join the peace negotiation proposed by Japan. Japan's interpretation of the Pacific War is a war of life and death for Japan and the whole country and nation were devoted to the war to safeguard Japan. The United States, the United Kingdom, China and the Netherlands formed a so-called "ABCD Circle" (ABCD are the initials of America, Britain, China and the Dutch) around Japan. According to Japan, it was the United States who scrapped the trade agreement, put a stop to its export of pig iron and other important resources and then issued a complete ban on oil export to Japan. Japan, who could not possibly survive without oil, made representations with the US on several occasions but only received an ultimatum in return, demanding that the Japanese anny withdraw completely from China's mainland and Manchuria. Even if launching a war against the United States was not an option, accepting the ultimatum would have meant national subjugation. Japan had legitimate interests in China, especially in Northeast China, which was obtained through its war with Russia and Japan had tombs of its fallen soldiers there. Without waging the war, Japan would have lost its soul. Therefore Japan decided to put up a desperate fight instead of awaiting its doom and swore to continue the fight one generation after another even if it would fail one day.

The Japanese version of the Nanjing Massacre is like this: A Japanese general named Iwane Matsui handed out maps to his subordinates in which foreign residential areas and safe zones were marked in red, and asked them to comply with military discipline or else face severe punishment. He also warned the Chinese army to surrender. Commander Tang Shengzhi of the Chinese army ignored the warning and ordered his troops to fight to death while he slipped away. Chinese troops were defeated with heavy casualties.

2. Glorifying militarism. The Museum whitewashes the purpose of waging the war as to help Asia get rid of the colonial rule of the Caucasians and realize the goal of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". It displays and advocates the "war glories" of the Japanese servicemen and the "Bushido" spirit that calls for the ultimate dedication to the Japanese Emperor.

On the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, the Museum claims that Japan fought the Japan-Qing War (the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War) to help Korea become independent. The Qing government of China took Japan as the enemy because it didn't want to lose Korea, its last tributary state. The result of the war was that Korea was freed from the Qing government's control. Japan waged the Russo-Japanese War to prevent Tsarist Russia from moving southward to control China's Northeast and Korea. The result of the war was that China's Northeast was seized back from Russia and returned to China. Japan, in turn, received its due interests in China.

On the "Divine Wind Special Attack Forces" (kamikaze tokkoutai), the Museum focuses on displaying their suicide attacks against US naval vessels at the end of the Pacific War. Inside the hall are many exhibits showing the personal information of the Special Attack Force members and the weapons including human torpedoes and human rockets. A bronze statue of the Special Attack Force members is set at the right of the hall entrance, the introduction saying that they "represent the foundation of the peace and prosperity of the nation today. Their pure and noble martyr spirit shall be respected, worshipped and forever carried forward by the whole nation". The "brave" and "patriotic" image of the Special Attack Force members is specially highlighted.

On Japan's aggression against Southeast Asia, the Museum claims that all Southeast Asian countries were colonized by the West at that time, with no independent state in the region. As a "liberating force", Japan drove away the Western Caucasians, laying the foundation for the success of the post-war movements in these countries against colonialism and for independence.

There is also a C56 steam locomotive on display in the entrance hall of the Museum. The Museum claims that such locomotive used to run on the Burma- Thailand railway, a world engineering miracle, bringing enormous economic benefits to Southeast Asian countries. In fact, the railway, also known as the "Death Railway飞was built at the cost of the lives of 13,000 prisoners of war of the Allied Forces and 90,000 laborers from Myanmar, Malaysia and the Netherlands' East Indies. Yet not a single word on that is mentioned at the Yushukan Museum.

3. Denying the Tokyo Trial. The Museum completely denies the trial at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE),and considers the executed Class-A war criminals as martyrs persecuted by the victorious nations.

On the Tokyo Trial, the Museum claims that the Tokyo Trial was a unilateral trial by victorious nations against the defeated Japan. Japan at that time was unable to claim its own legitimate rights. The Allied Forces took Japan as the defendant in accordance with the laws developed by themselves. Provisions made by the IMTFE such as "crime against peace" and "crime against humanity" are against the principle of nulla poena sine lege (no penalty without a law), as the defendants were tried retroactively for violating laws which had not existed when the acts were conducted. In accordance with the principles of the international law, the trial on war criminals shall be rendered invalid once a peace treaty is signed. In the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan committed to accept the results of the Tokyo Trial. Yet it doesn't mean that Japan accepts the historical view embodied in the Trial.

The Yushukan Museum spared no effort to praise Judge Rodhabinod Pal from India working at the IMTFE. The Museum claims that Pal urged for the acquittal of all Class-A war criminals, and he believed that the Tokyo Trial was against the principle of nulla poena sine lege. In 2005, a monument honoring Pal was erected at the square to the entrance of the Museum.

III. The 14 Class-A War Criminals Worshipped at the Yasukuni Shrine

The 14 Class-A war criminals worshipped at the Yasukuni Shrine, except Toshio Shiratori, all directly took part in the war of aggression against China or bore major criminal responsibilities for the formulation or implementation of Japan's policy of aggression against China. Heitaro Kimura and Akira Muto were each responsible for the mass killings in Myanmar and the Philippines. The details of their crimes are as follows:

Hideki Tojo

Tojo was born in a family with military background in Iwate Prefecture in 1884. His father, Hidenori Tojo, one of the founders of the Japanese Army, was a planner and commander during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. Influenced by his family, Tojo was deeply obsessed with militarist thinking. During the Russo-Japanese War, Tojo joined the battle in 1904 in China's Northeast. In 1915, he graduated from Japan's Army War College, and was promoted to Major General and the Head of the Military Investigation Department of the Ministry of War in 1933. When serving as the Head of the Military Investigation Department, Tojo took advantage of his leadership role in the investigation of the September 18th Incident to suppress political parties which were unsatisfied with the War Ministηand strengthen the power of the military.

In 1935, Tojo was appointed Commander of the Kempeitai of the Kwantung Army. He conducted a massive crackdown on the anti-Japanese campaigns in Northeast China. Because of his outstanding performance in the battlefield, he was quickly promoted to the position of Lieutenant General and the Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army. After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Kwantung Army, under Tojo's command, attacked the Chahar province of China and invaded Zhangjiakou and other Chinese territories. Tojo also orchestrated the establishment of the puppet regime, the South Chahar Autonomous Government.

In 1938, Tojo returned to Japan and assumed the position of Vice Minister of War, and in 1940, he was appointed the Army Minister of Japan. In 1941, Tojo issued the Admonitions on the Battlefield, a major policy paper that glorifies the Fascist spirit. He ordered the Japanese soldiers to "readily sacrifice their lives for the country if they were given the order" and "take the suppression of personal freedom as a matter of life". In October 1941, Tojo became the Prime Minister of Japan, and served concurrently as Home Minister, Army Minister and Munitions Minister, consolidating all powers in his own hands. In the "established state policy", he openly claimed that Japan should "complete the war in China to create the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". By strengthening the command economy and suppressing dissidents, Tojo pushed the militarist system to the extreme.

In the second half of 1944, as Japan's fate of defeat became irreversible, domestic opinions in Japan turned increasingly critical of the Tojo cabinet. On 18 July, Tojo was forced to step down. After a failed suicide attempt soon after the war, Tojo stood trial at the IMTFE as the No.1 war criminal. He was convicted of the crime of war and executed by hanging at the Sugamo Prison in Tokyo in December 1948.

Koki Hirota

Born in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1878, Hirota graduated from the law department of Tokyo Imperial University and entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1906. He was director of the European and American Department of the Ministry and Japanese Ambassador to the Soviet Union. He served as Japanese Foreign Minister in several government administrations and followed a hard-line policy towards China. In 1935, he put forward to China the notorious Hirota Sangensoku (the Three Principles by Hirota), namely the discontinuation of anti-Japanese activities, recognition of Manchukuo and joint action against Communism and hastened Japanese aggression against China. During his tenure as Prime Minister and concurrently Foreign Minister between March 1936 and January 1937, Japan concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and Italy and established the puppet regime "North China Political Council" in China. Hirota was one of the masterminds of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. He also planned and supported the setting up of the puppet government led by Wang Jingwei.

After the end of WWII, Hirota was convicted of war crimes by the IMTFE and executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison in December 1948. Hirota was also the only Japanese civilian official sentenced to death by hanging.

Kenji Doihara

Doihara was born into a military family in Okayama Prefecture in 1883. He was the chief of the military espionage services in the Japanese aggression against China. In 1913, Doihara came to Beijing as a member of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and an army captain and worked as the assistant to Military Attache and chief of Japanese secret services Rihachiro Banzai at the office of secret services known as Banzai Residence, beginning his 30-plus-year long career of secret service in China. He lived in China for many years, met with people from across the social spectrum and spoke fluent Mandarin. He was a well-known China hand within the secret services of the Japanese Imperial Army and instrumental in Japan's espionage and conspiracies in China. While in China, Doihara made deals with Chinese warlords and instigated internal conflicts in a bid to facilitate Japan's invasion and control of China.

In March 1928, Doihara became advisor to Zhang Zuolin and then single-handedly plotted the Huanggutun Incident. He was appointed the head of the secret service in Tianjin set up in 1931 and induced Puyi to leave Tianjin for Dalian in 1932 in order to put together a puppet regime in the so-called "Manchukuo". Afterwards, Doihara was transferred to Harbin to serve as the head of the secret service there and suppress the anti-Japanese armed militants in Northeast China.

In 1935, Doihara was sent to North China to assist Hayao Tada, commander in chief of Japanese China Garrison Army, in instigating autonomy of the five provinces in North China among local warlords in an attempt to create a second Manchukuo. After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, he led the invasion in North China, thus becoming directly involved in the war. In 1938, Doihara was put in charge of forming the puppet government in the occupied Chinese territories and established his operation agency, Doihara Special Agency, in Shanghai. He was promoted to Army General in 1941.

After WWII, Doihara was convicted of war crimes by the IMTFE and executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison in December 1948.

Iwane Matsui

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1878, Iwane Matsui was the principal culprit of the Nanjing Massacre. He first worked with the China Department of Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, then headed the Fengtian Secret Services Agency. He later served successively as staff officer with the Vladivostok Expeditionary Force, adjutant of the Kwantung Army, military attaché stationed in Guangdong, Shanghai and with the Japanese legation in China, and commander in chief of Japanese forces in Taiwan. He was promoted to the rank of general in the Japanese Army in 1933.

Stationed in China for a total of 13 years, Iwane Matsui participated in plotting and personally directed Japanese operations against China. After Japan launched the all-out war against China, he was appointed the commanding officer of Shanghai Expeditionary Army and directed Japanese army's offense against Shanghai and Nanjing. Before taking over Nanjing, Matsui ordered his troops to wipe out the city district by district after occupation. Nanjing Massacre thus followed.

Iwane Matsui was convicted of war crimes by the International Tribunal for the Far East after the war and was executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison in December 1948.

Heitaro Kimura

Born in Tokyo in 1888, Heitaro Kimura was involved in Japanese invasion of China as a general and Japanese invasion of Myanmar as the commander in chief of the Japanese army. In 1939, as lieutenant general of the Japanese army stationed in Yanzhou, Shandong Province, he cracked down on the Chinese resistance forces at their bases behind the enemy lines in Shandong and massacred Chinese troops and civilians who fought against Japanese aggression. In 1940, he was appointed the chief of staff of Kwantung Army. He returned to Japan in 1941 and became the Vice Minister of War. He actively plotted the Pacific War. In 1944, he was made commander in chief of the Burma Area Army and slaughtered and abused the civilians and prisoners of war in Myanmar. He was known as the "butcher of Burma" by the prosecutors during the Tokyo Trial.

Heitaro Kimura was convicted of war crimes by the International Tribunal for the Far East after the war and was executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison in December 1948.

Seishiro Itagaki

Born in Iwate Prefecture in 1885, SeishiroItagaki had wanted to join the military since childhood under the influence of his family. He fought in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. From 1917 to 1919, Itagaki worked as a staff member in the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and was posted in Kunming and Hankou, China where he collected intelligence information. In 1992, he worked at the China Department of the General Staff Office and frequently travelled to China on conspiratorial missions. Itagaki, together with Kenji Doihara and Isogai Rensuke, were called the three "China hands" in the Japanese army. He saw Northeast China as the lifeline of Japan and was a longtime advocate for a war of aggression against China. In 1931, he plotted the "September 18 Incident" and created the puppet regime of Manchukuo.

After the puppet Manchukuo was established in March 1932, he served as the governing advisor and the supreme advisor to "Manchukuo's Civil and Military Ministry". In 1936, he instigated the Suiyuan Incident in Inner Mongolia and the separation of Inner Mongolia from China. In 1937, working as head of Fengtian (Shenyang) Secret Services, he went to Tianjin to lure some senior officials of the Nationalist government into surrender in coordination with the Japanese military's invasion into Northern China. After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Itagaki was sent to China for direct involvement in the war of aggression into Northern and Central China.

In May 1938, recalled back to Japan and appointed the War Minister of the Konoe Cabinet, Itagaki expanded the war of aggression against China and made arrangements of establishing the puppet regime of Wang Jingwei. From September 1939 to July 1941, he worked as the Chief of Staff of the China Expeditionary Army in direct command of the war of aggression against China, thus bore direct responsibility to the atrocities committed by the Japanese military in China. Later he served as commander of the Japanese army in Korea and Singapore.

After the war, the IMTFE affirmed his war crimes, and he was executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison in December 1948.

Akira Muto

Akira Muto was born in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1892. He once worked as a Staff Officer of the Kwantung Army and plotted the Suiyuan Incident. Later he was directly involved in the war of aggression against China, spreading the war from Northern China to Central China. When Nanjing fell, he was Vice Chief of Staff of the Japanese Central China Area Army, an assistant to Iwane Matsui, in charge of camping arrangements of the invading Japanese troops in Nanjing. Muto announced that the Japanese troops could camp freely in Nanjing. This order directly led to the Nanjing Massacre. In July 1938, serving as Vice Chief of Staff of the Japanese Northern China Area Army, Muto commanded the Japanese army's "mopping-up operation" in Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei Border Area. He also vigorously advocated a war against the United States. When Muto was Chief of Staff of the Japanese Army in the Philippines in 1942, he slaughtered a large number of civilians in Southeast Asia and prisoners of war of the Allied Forces, helped create the Manila Massacre and caused the death of about 100,000 civilians in the Philippines.

After the war, the IMTFE affirmed his war crimes, and he was executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison in December 1948.

Yosuke Matsuoka

Yosuke Matsuoka was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture on 4 March 1880. He studied in the United States in his early years and later served in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served successively as Consul General in China's Fuzhou and Shanghai, foreign affairs director of the "Office of Governor General in Kwantung" (Japan's colonial agency in China's Dalian and Lushun) and director-general of the intelligence bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After leaving the foreign ministry in 1921, he became a board member and then Vice President of "South Manchurian Railway Co.", and made frenzied arguments for invasion that "Manchuria and Mongolia are the lifeline of Japan". He was elected member of the House of Representatives of the Diet in 1930 and was appointed Japan's Chief Representative to the League of Nations in 1932. In view of the international isolation as a result of Japan's invasion and occupation of China's Northeast, he announced Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations. In 1940, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs during the second term of Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro and concluded the Axis Alliance with Germany and Italy. In 1941, after visiting Germany and Italy, he went to Moscow and signed the Soviet-Japαnese Neutrality Pact.

After the end of WWII, Matsuoka was tried as Class-A war criminal suspect at the IMTFE and died of illness in June 1946 before his trial was completed.

Osami Nagano

Osami Nagano was born in Kochi Prefecture in 1880 and graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy. He was posted to the United States as military attache and later served as Commandant of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, Navy Minister under Prime Minister Koki Hirota, Combined Fleet Commander-in-Chief, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff二etc. In an Imperial Conference in September 1941, he advocated militarism, saying, "The nation is bound to perish if it does not go to war. War embodies the spirit of defending the country. As long as the spirit lives on, Japan, even if it is defeated, will rise again." In December 1941, Nagano signed the order for attacking the Pearl Harbor.

After the end of WWII, Osami Nagano was tried as Class-A war criminal suspect at the IMTFE and died of illness in 1947 before his trial was completed.

Yoshijiro Umezu

Yoshijiro Umezu was born in Oita Prefecture in 1882. He fought in the Russo-Japanese War and served as military attaché in the Japanese embassy in Germany and Denmark, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, etc.

In 1934, Umezu was appointed Commander of the Japanese China Garrison Army and made provocations in Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding area. In 1935, he forced He Yingqin, Minister of Military Affairs of the Chinese Nationalist Government, to accept what was later known as the "He-Umezu agreement", through which Japan took control of strategic strongholds near Beijing and Tianjin in preparation for its all-out war of aggression against China. Umezu was appointed Vice Minister of the Army in 1936 and engaged in plotting the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which marked the beginning of Japan's all-out war of aggression in China.

Serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Kwantung Army from 1939 to 1944, Umezu oversaw the unbridled plundering, brutal colonial rule, and bloody crackdown on the Anti-Japanese Allied Forces in Northeast China. In 1944, he succeeded Hideki Tojo as Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff and carried on with the wars in China and the Pacific theater.

Refusing to accept Japan's doomed defeat, Umezu and his men made a plan for war on Japan's main islands, a last-ditch attempt that would put the lives of all Japanese people on the line. He was bitterly opposed to Japan's acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation and even insisted on continuing the war at the last Imperial Conference on 14 August 1945. On 2 September, Umezu, ordered by the Emperor, attended the ceremony of Japanese surrender aboard U.S.S. Missouri as representative of the Army.

After the end of WWII, Yoshijoro Umezu was sentenced to life imprisonment and died of illness at Sugamo Prison in 1949.

Kiichiro Hiranuma

Born in Okayama Prefecture in 1867, Hiranuma served as the Prosecutor General and had much influence in the judicial circle. He was the founder of the right-wing National Foundation Society (Kokuhonsha). From 1923 to 1932, Hiranuma served as President of Nihon University and became President of the Japanese Privy Council in 1936. In January 1939, Hiranuma became Prime Minister of Japan but resigned in August as Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Non-Aggression. Hiranuma believed that fascism was the best state model. After the war, Hiranuma received life sentence at the IMTFE. He was released on parole in 1952 on medical grounds and died in the same year.

Kuniaki Koiso

Born in Tochigi Prefecture in 1880, Koiso served as Vice Minister of War, Chief of Staff of the Kwanting Army and Commander of the Japanese Korean Army. In 1939, he served as Minister of Colonial Affairs in the Hiranuma Cabinet. In 1942, Koiso became Governor-General of Korea and was responsible for the repeated suppression of anti-Japanese movements in Korea. Koiso became Prime Minister in July 1944 and resigned in April 1945 due to military failures. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at the IMTFE and died of illness in Sugamo Prison in 1950 while serving his sentence.

Shigenori Togo

Born in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1882, Togo graduated from the Literature Department of Tokyo Imperial University in 1908 and then joined the Foreign Ministry. He served as Consul in the Japanese Consulate-General in Fengtian in 1913. He was appointed Ambassador to Germany in 1937 and Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1938. Togo became Foreign Minister and Minister of Colonial Affairs in the Tojo Cabinet in 1941 and participated in the planning of the launch of the Pacific War. In April 1945, he became Foreign Minister in the Kantaro Suzuki Cabinet and was in charge of affairs related to Japan's defeat. He received a sentence of 20-year imprisonment at the IMTFE and died of illness at a US army hospital in 1950 while serving his sentence.

Toshio Shiratori

Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1887, Shiratori served as director of the intelligence bureau of the Foreign Ministry and Ambassador to Italy. He actively worked for the axis military alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan. He served as Director of the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association (Yokusan Seijikai) and devoted himself to the fascist dictatorship of the Yokusan system. Shiratori also advocated the expulsion of the white people. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at the IMTFE and died of illness in Sugamo Prison in 1949 while serving his sentence.

IV. About the Tokyo Trial

From 3 May 1946 to 12 November 1948, principal Japanese WWII war criminals were put on trial at the IMTFE. Such crimes as planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression were classified as Class-A crimes. There were over 50 Japanese war tribunals around the world, and the IMTFE was the only place where Class-A criminal suspects were prosecuted. Since the trial took place in Tokyo, it is also known as the Tokyo Trial.

1. The composition of the IMTFE

On 26 July 1945, toward the end of WWII, China, the United States and the United Kingdom issued the Potsdam Proclamation, whose terms specified the elimination "for all time of the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest" (Article 6) and "stem justice" to "be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners" (Article 10). Japan accepted the Potsdam Proclamation and announced unconditional surrender on 15 August 1945 and signed the Instrument of Surrender on 2 September. These events provided the political and legal foundation and realistic conditions for the Tokyo Trial.

On 26 December 1945, foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom released the Communique on the Moscow Conference, giving General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the Far East, the authority to prosecute Japanese war criminals. On 19 January 1946, MacArthur issued a special proclamation ordering the establishment of the IMTFE and approved its Charter. The IMTFE was officially launched.

In February 1946, MacArthur appointed a panel of nine judges to the Tribunal, one candidate from each of the nine countries that signed the Instrument of Surrender, namely China, the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Justice William Webb from Australia was President of the Tribunal. On 26 April, amendments were made to the IMTFE Charter to add two judges from India and the Philippines respectively to the panel so that the countries on the Far East Commission could be fully represented at the Tribunal. Each of the 11 countries also sent a prosecutor to form a panel of prosecutors headed by Chief Prosecutor Joseph Keenan from the United States. Justice Mei Ruao and Prosecutor Xiang Zhejun represented China at the Tribunal.

2. The trial and its outcome

On 28 April 1946, the IMTFE identified 28 Class-A war criminal suspects, including Hideki Tojo. On 29 April, the prosecutors officially lodged an indictment with the Tribunal, containing 55 counts charging the 28 defendants with Crimes against Peace, Conventional War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. The Tokyo Trial lasted for two years and seven months. In the 818 court sessions in all, 419 witnesses took the stand, 779 witnesses presented written statements, and 4,336 pieces of evidence were handled, all pointing to the crimes of the Japanese militarists in planning and preparing for the war of aggression against China and other Asian countries as well as staging the Pacific War.

On 4 November 1948, the Tokyo Trial delivered a 1,213-page judgment, which took the Tribunal seven days to read out. Among the 28 defendants, Osami Nagano and Yosuke Matsuoka died of illness and charges were dropped against the mentally unfit Shumei Okawa. All the remaining 25 were found guilty. Seven were sentenced to death, including Hideki Tojo, Kenji Doihara and Seishiro Itagaki; 16 were sentenced to life imprisonment, including Kiichiro Hiranuma, Kuniaki Koiso and Yoshijiro Umezu; and Shigenori Togo and Mamoru Shigemitsu were sentenced to 20 and 7 years of imprisonment respectively. On 23 December 1948, Hideki Tojo and the other six criminals were executed by hanging at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo.

In drafting the judgment, several judges raised dissenting opinions over the legal basis of the trial and the penalties to be given. The judgment delivered by the Tribunal reflected the views of the majority. Separate opinions were made by the few dissenting judges, which were not read out at the Tribunal.

In their separate opinions, the Australian Justice William Webb and the French Justice Henri Bernard challenged the absence of the Japanese Emperor at the Tribunal; the Philippine Justice Delfin Jaranilla called the penalties too lenient and preferred death sentence to all the accused; and the Indian Justice Radhabinod Pal called on the world to show magnanimity, understanding and benevolence and questioned the legitimacy to blame the war entirely on Hideki Tojo and the other 24 defendants. He was the only judge to call for the acquittal of all defendants.

3. The significance of the Tokyo Trial

The Tokyo Trial is a trial of justice conducted by the international community on Japan's responsibility for waging aggressive wars and the atrocities committed by Japanese militarists. Like the Nuremberg Trial, it constitutes a significant part of the political basis of the post-war international order.

The Tokyo Trial is regarded by many as the largest international trial in human history. It has exposed the crimes of aggression committed by the Japanese Fascists, meted out severe punishment to the militarist leaders, promoted international justice, and had a far-reaching impact on the enrichment and development of the nonns of international law for upholding world peace and on the establishment of post-war international order.

On 8 September 1951, Japan concluded the Treaty of San Francisco with the United States and some other countries. Article 11 of the Treaty clearly stipulates that "Japan accepts the judgments of the IMTFE and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan, and will carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan." This is a clear indication of the Japanese government’s commitment to accept the results of the "Tokyo Trial", yet such a commitment is deeply resisted by the right-wing forces in Japan, who have continued to run against the trend of the times by challenging the "Tokyo Trial" and attempting to rewrite Japan's history of aggression. The following are some of their fallacies:

(1) The trial is "against the principle of nulla poena sine lege (no penalty without a law)". They argue that the application of such provisions as "crime against peace" and "crime against humanity" by the court is against the principle of nulla poena sine lege as the defendants were tried retroactively for violating laws which had not existed when the acts were conducted. This was the very argument that the Indian judge Radhabinod Pal used in support of his "not guilty" position for Japan. His opinion was seen as a "powerful evidence" by the Japanese right-wing forces. They even erected a monument in memory of his "virtuous deeds" in the Yasukuni Shrine.

(2) The trial is a "victor's justice". They argue that Japan was unable to claim its legitimate rights during the trial and that the Tokyo Trial was imposed by the victorious nations on the defeated Japan through armed occupation.

(3)"Accepting the Tokyo Trial is not equivalent to accepting its view of history." In accordance with the principles of the international law, the trial on war criminals shall be rendered invalid once a peace treaty is signed between the warring states. Japan made the promise in the Treaty of 8αn Francisco to accept the judgments of the Tokyo Trial only to enable the war criminals to continue to serve their sentences, yet this shall not be seen as Japan's acceptance of the historical view embodied in the Trial.

(4) "Error of translation". They claim that the Japanese version of the Treaty of San Francisco made a mistake in translating the statement "Japan accepts the judgments". According to them, the English word "JUDGMENT" should be translated as a "court decision" in Japanese. Therefore, what Japan promised to accept in the Treaty was only the "results of judgment" on the Class-A war criminals, not the trial itself.

(5) "Class-A war criminals are not guilty in Japan". They claim that Class-A war criminals are not men of guilt in Japan and their reputation has also been restored.

Because of the loopholes left by the United States in its dealings of post-war Japan, the right-wing forces managed to return to the top echelon of the Japanese society and even regained power of the state. The absurd questions they raised to negate the Tokyo Trial had a pernicious impact across the Japanese society. Afterwards, pushed by the right-wing conservatives and with acquiescence from the United States, the Japanese authorities began to clear the name of the war criminals in roughly three steps.

First, the Japanese authorities pardoned war criminals serving their sentences. On 3 August 1953, the Japanese House of Representatives adopted the resolution on pardoning such war criminals. As a result, 13 Class-A war criminals were one by one released from prison (the other five had died while serving in prison). Among them, Mamoru Shigemitsu and Okinori Kaya even went on to become Foreign Minister and Justice Minister respectively.

Second, the Japanese authorities awarded assistance to the bereaved families of the Class-A war criminals on the ground that these war criminals "died in public service." On 1 August 1953, the Japanese Diet revised the Assistance Act for the Wounded and Sick Veterans and Bereaved Families of Fallen Soldiers, allowing the bereaved families of the 14 Class-A war criminals to enjoy equal assistance as those of ordinary fallen soldiers (the legal term being "died in public service").

Third, the Japanese authorities helped the Yasukuni Shrine enshrine the 14 Class-A war criminals. In February 1966, the Ministry of Welfare forwarded to the Yasukuni Shrine information of the 14 Class-A war criminals included in a list of figures to be enshrined. Yet the purpose was not achieved due to the reluctance of the head priest Fujimaro Tsukuba, who came from the royal family, and other reasons, until the change of head priest in October 1978. As soon as he took office, Nagayoshi Matsudaira, the new head priest, enshrined the 14 Class-A war criminals as "Martyrs of Showa" in a secret ceremony. Later on, he indicated in an interview that the enshrinement was approved by the Japanese government.

The abovementioned steps by the Japanese government watered down and blurred the responsibility for war of these Class-A criminals and further emboldened the right-wing forces to overturn the historic verdict given on Japan's aggression. Following these steps, Japan has raised its voice to negate the Tokyo Trial. Japanese leaders even began to openly question the legitimacy of the trial.

In June 1979, Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira told the Diet, "I think that the judgment on the Class-A war criminals or on the Greater East Asia War will be made by history." In September 1986, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said during a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), "The Allied Powers put Japan on trial according to their own laws and tried Japan in the name of civilization, humanity and peace at the Tokyo Trial." "A judgment on whether such form of trial is correct will sooner or later be made by history."

Current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plays a leadership role among the right-wing conservatives in Japan. He has a wrong understanding of history and has kept making negative remarks on the issue of the Tokyo Trial. When he was the acting secretary-general of the LDP, he tried to establish an association of young members of the Diet to support visits to the Yasukuni Shrine and called for discussions on "the illegitimacy of the Tokyo Trial" and "wrong verdicts on Class-A war criminals". On 12 March 2013, Abe said to the Diet that the verdict of the Tokyo Trial was passed by the victor, i.e. the Allied Powers, not by Japan itself. In April 2013, Abe claimed in the Diet that the definition of aggression is unclear in academia and the international community. On 26 December 2013, in defiance of strong international opposition, Abe blatantly paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine where Class-A war criminals are honored. Such rhetoric and behavior of Abe has laid bare his intention to negate the Tokyo Trial, clear the name of Class-A war criminals and overturn the historic verdict on Japan's aggression. This has caused a great uproar in and outside Japan and aroused strong condemnation from China, the ROK, the United States and the international community.

 

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