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Interpreting Nukes In Japan

Another reason Kyuma's comments angered bomb survivors in particular is that the 66-year-old himself is a native of Nagasaki, so he was expected to be more sensitive to the plight of those who still have to deal with the consequences of the war even today. In fact, a protest was held in the city Thursday demanding that he actually resign as a member of parliament, in addition to stepping down as a Cabinet member for what many voters regard as his particularly insensitive remarks. Meanwhile, Nagasaki's Mayor Tomihisa Tagami said Wednesday that he would like to have Kyuma explain himself to the bomb survivors directly when he is next in the city.
By Shihoko Goto
UPI Senior Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Jul 05, 2007
If the United States had not dropped nuclear bombs on Japan, World War II could have dragged on even longer and claimed more Japanese as well as American lives. That line of thinking is a mainstream U.S. theory when justifying the Truman administration's decision to attack Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. But merely mouthing that idea in front of a group of university students is ill-advised for a public figure, as Japan's defense minister found out earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Fumio Kyuma was forced to step down as calls for him to resign continued to escalate over a speech he made three days earlier stating that the U.S. nuclear attacks "could not be helped" as a means to bring a swift end to World War II. Kyuma added that the atomic bombs also saved Japan from a joint Allied occupation including the Soviet Union, as had been the case of Germany, rather than being just under U.S. rule after the war.

Yet Japanese academics continue to debate that argument, with many insisting that Japan would have had to surrender even if the bombs were not dropped. Those who were the most offended by Kyuma's comments, however, were people who continue to live with the after-effects of the nuclear attacks, and public opinion sided with them.

An estimated 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima as a direct result of the atomic bomb, while about 70,000 perished in Nagasaki. Moreover, the descendants of those who survived continue to suffer from a higher rate of cancer than the general population, while a number of those who actually survived the bombings continue to live.

Another reason Kyuma's comments angered bomb survivors in particular is that the 66-year-old himself is a native of Nagasaki, so he was expected to be more sensitive to the plight of those who still have to deal with the consequences of the war even today. In fact, a protest was held in the city Thursday demanding that he actually resign as a member of parliament, in addition to stepping down as a Cabinet member for what many voters regard as his particularly insensitive remarks. Meanwhile, Nagasaki's Mayor Tomihisa Tagami said Wednesday that he would like to have Kyuma explain himself to the bomb survivors directly when he is next in the city.

Kyuma's performance at a press conference Tuesday announcing his resignation as defense minister certainly won him no favors from his constituents back home, as he defended himself by stating that "we shouldn't blame America now" for past incidents.

Granted, Kyuma may be right in calling for a practical interpretation of history. Nevertheless, public outrage over his comments underlines just how sensitive the subject of nuclear attacks remains in the minds of Japanese voters. After all, while Japan continues to be attacked by neighboring China and South Korea in particular for the atrocities it committed while occupying the two countries both during and before World War II, the Japanese view themselves more as victims than aggressors during the war, precisely because it remains the only country that has been attacked by nuclear bombs.

Yet perhaps the most surprising outcome of all was the extent of public outcry over Kyuma's comments, 62 years after the bombings took place. Japan's biggest-selling daily Yomiuri Shimbun, for one, pointed out that this was not the first politically ill-advised comment by Kyuma since he came to office 10 months ago. His comment that attacking Iraq was a "mistake" soon after becoming defense minister came under fire among policymakers in particular, given Japan's relations with the United States, which requires full U.S. military support in light of the ongoing nuclear stand-off with neighboring North Korea.

Still, it was not the possibility of antagonizing the United States that proved to cost Kyuma his job, but rather the interpretation of the history of World War II, which remains a sensitive subject for voters that continues to be interpreted differently from other countries.

Source: United Press International

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Japan Defence Chief Sorry For Atom Bomb Remarks, Despite The Obvious
Tokyo (AFP) July 1, 2007
Japan's defence minister apologised Sunday after sparking outrage over remarks which implied that the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Japan were the inevitable way to end World War II. Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma said in a speech on Saturday: "I understand the bombings brought the war to its end. I think it was something that couldn't be helped."







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