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Air force chief fired over essay denying Japan's aggression during World War II
Saturday 01st November, 06:50 AM JST
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Friday dismissed Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen Toshio Tamogami over his controversial essay denying Japan’s aggression against other Asian countries such as China and Korea before and during World War II.
It is the first case in which a top Self-Defense Forces officer has been be dismissed for publicly stating his personal opinion since 1978 when then SDF chief Gen Hiroomi Kurisu was sacked for saying the SDF could take extralegal action in the event of an emergency.
Hamada told reporters earlier in the day, ‘‘What is stated in the essay includes an assessment of the last war that is inappropriate. It was improper for a person in his capacity as ASDF chief to make public an opinion which was obviously different from the government’s position.’’
Hamada indicated that Tamogami had released the essay without making it available to civilian officials of the Defense Ministry in advance.
In the essay released Friday, Tamogami, 60, said that Japan’s actions before and during the war did not amount to aggression and called for authorizing Japan’s use of the right to collective self-defense, an action banned under the current legal interpretation of the Japanese government.
The essay by a top SDF officer is likely to stir controversy over whether civilian control of the SDF remains intact and to provoke China and South Korea as well as other Asian countries.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Taro Aso, the supreme commander of the SDF, criticized Tamogami for the essay, telling reporters, ‘‘It is not appropriate, given his position, even though he published it in a private capacity.’’
Successive Japanese administrations have supported a 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama stating that Japan inflicted tremendous damage and suffering on Asian and other countries ‘‘through its colonial rule and aggression.’’
Aso said he supports the Murayama statement in a parliamentary session shortly after he took office in late September.
In the essay titled ‘‘Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?’’ Tamogami, known for his controversial remarks since becoming ASDF chief in March 2007, wrote it is ‘‘false’’ to accuse Japan of having been an aggressor nation before and during the war.
He described Japan as ‘‘a victim’’ that had been drawn into the Sino-Japanese War by Chiang Kai-shek, who led the Chinese Nationalist Party.
The then Japanese army was subjected to ‘‘frequent acts of terrorism’’ by Chiang’s party, Tamogami wrote. ‘‘The Japanese government patiently tried to bring about peace, but at every turn they were betrayed by Chiang Kai-shek.’’
Tamogami also challenged the government’s current position on the activities of the SDF under the U.S.-drafted Constitution, hinting that Japan should be allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense and possess ‘‘offensive weaponry.’’
Tamogami wrote in the essay, ‘‘Our country is said to have invaded the Chinese mainland and the Korean Peninsula in the prewar period,’’ referring to the period before and during WWII.
‘‘But surprisingly few people are aware (of the fact) that the Japanese army was stationed in these countries on the basis of treaties,’’ he wrote.
‘‘Even now, there are many people who think that our country’s aggression caused unbearable suffering to the countries of Asia during the Greater East Asia War. But we need to realize that many Asian countries take a positive view’’ of the war, he stated in the essay.
‘‘The Japan that fought the Greater East Asia War is held in high esteem’’ in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, he claimed.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East tried to ‘‘push all the responsibility for the war (WWII) onto Japan,’’ Tamogami wrote.
‘‘And that mind control is still misleading the Japanese people 63 years after the war. The belief is that if the Japanese army becomes stronger, it will certainly go on a rampage and invade other countries, so we need to make it as difficult as possible for the SDF to act,’’ he said.
Tamogami said in the essay that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 after being caught in ‘‘a trap’’ set by then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.
The general also questioned Japan’s heavy dependence on the U.S. military for its defense.
The essay was made public Friday by the hotel and condominium developer Apa Group, which announced Tamogami had won the grand prize in a competition organized by it. The prize came with an award of 3 million yen.
In April, Tamogami was rebuked by then Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba for using a popular comedian’s signature phrase when commenting on a court ruling that judged the ASDF’s mission in Iraq was unconstitutional.