Kerry in Landmark Hiroshima Visit: Lesson for China as US-Japan Relationship Shines

John Kerry has become the first US Secretary of State to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park memorial in Japan, which commemorates the approximately 140,000 people killed when the Enola Gay became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb against a human target.

Hiroshima in ruins
Hiroshima in ruins

The decision of Harry Truman and his commanders to launch ‘Little Boy’ from the hold of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress on the 6th August 1945 has remained one of the most controversial turning points in history.  The Americans – and their allies – saw the deployment of the atomic weapon as the only way to force Tokyo to surrender, a concept completely anathema to Japanese culture.  Others decried the devastation of a city and the deaths of so many innocent civilians.

There has been an almost respectful quiet between Tokyo and Washington over the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which took place on the 9th August 1945 and resulted in some 50,000 civilian deaths – since WWII.  The Americans have been careful not to act in any way that would signal an apology for what they deemed a necessary, if tragic, act of war.  The Japanese, meanwhile, have generally not followed the Chinese example of demanding unending apologies for wartime aggression. 

The Eisenhowers welcome Crown Prince Akihito and his wife Michiko to the White House
The Eisenhowers welcome Crown Prince Akihito and his wife Michiko to the White House

Of course, Japan was heavily-reliant on the USA post-WWII for its reconstruction and economic redevelopment, as well as its security and reintegration into the international community. It has therefore not been in the interests of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – the almost perpetual rulers of post-War Japan – to antagonise the Americans by demanding an apology for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Rather, the spectre of the atomic bombings has created a positive bind in US-Japanese relations, whereby both countries are committed to preventing any similar event from occurring again.  Indeed, Japan is probably the staunchest non-proliferation state in the world, and the USA has made it a primary focus of its foreign policy to prevent nuclear proliferation, particularly with regards to so-called ‘rogue states’ such as Iran and North Korea.

Kerry’s visit is therefore unlikely to have any significant impact on policy, and is rather just another symbolic gesture proffered by the Obama administration during its final days in office.  Indeed, reports suggest that the President himself may visit Hiroshima next month.

Whereas the legacy of WWII has created an almost impenetrable barrier for normalising Sino-Japanese relations, it has ironically served as a platform for creating the most enduring alliance in the Asia-Pacific; the Japan-US relationship.  Despite fighting some of the most bloody battles in modern history and wreaking almost untold devastation on each other, Tokyo and Washington have adopted a pragmatic approach to reconciliation that is a testament to their responsible, global leadership. Mr Kerry’s visit will only serve to reinforce this view.

Japan was forced into a humiliating surrender after the atomic bombings, yet this has not prevented the development of positive contemporary alliance with the USA
Japan was forced into a humiliating surrender after the atomic bombings, yet this has not prevented the development of positive contemporary alliance with the USA

Whilst the atrocities of the past should never be overlooked – and Japan has apologised for the behaviour of its troops in China between 1937 and 1945 whatever Beijing might say – China needs to be similarly mature if it is to equate its economic might with diplomatic ascendancy, thereby elevating itself to become a true ‘global leader’, which at the moment it cannot be considered.

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‘No New Sanctions for Iran’ Demands Appeaser Kerry

John Kerry has insisted that no further economic sanctions be passed against Iran by the international community, as it may derail attempts to conclude a satisfactory agreement regarding the Middle Eastern state’s nuclear programme.

Kerry is under fire over Iran from the Republicans. For once, the GOP has a point Source: Foreign Policy
Kerry is under fire over Iran from the Republicans. For once, the GOP has a point
Source: Foreign Policy

Many people are supporting Kerry’s stance. Fearful as they are of the West getting sucked into another conflict in the Middle East, they see diplomacy as a more desirable alternative. Likewise, negotiations with the Taliban are now considered preferable to extending a commitment of American forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Of course there is little consideration as to the feasibility of these endeavours.

In the 1930s, the British people were desperate to avoid another conflict. The majority of the population retained horrific memories of the Great War and were content that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain should pursue his ‘appeasement’ policy against the aggression of Adolf Hitler. No war was good news; simple. Few people, with the exception of a knowing clique in parliament, were privy to Hitler’s true nature and the ultimately inevitable failure of appeasement.

Chamberlain's appeasement policy has seen him vilified by history
Chamberlain’s appeasement policy has seen him vilified by history

Like Hitler and Nazism, the Iranian nuclear threat won’t simply vanish. The representatives at the Geneva talks on Iran’s nuclear programme are affiliated with President Hasan Rouhani, a perceived reformer in the eyes of the Western media.

However, Rouhani is not the real powerbroker in Iran. That honour belongs to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his loyal Revolutionary Guards. These men want Iran to possess a nuclear weapon and have no intention of negotiating the point.

The only way of slowing Iran’s inexorable progress towards nuclearisation (short of war) is to impose further sanctions, which have proved successful in crippling Iran’s economy, the base for a successful nuclear programme. Preventing further sanctions, or even lifting some as Kerry has hinted at, is akin to accepting a nuclear Iran.

Whilst perhaps not as blatantly negligent as allowing Hitler to gobble up large chunks of central Europe without a shot being fired, Kerry and his supporters are being delusional about what can be achieved through talks alone. It may not lead us to World War Three, but if Iran attains a nuclear weapon Israel will become increasingly nervy and Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to rule out a preemptive strike against the Jewish state’s worst enemy.

Netanyahu has warned Iran that he will stop full nuclearisation by any means
Netanyahu has warned Iran that he will stop full nuclearisation by any means

Increasing sanctions may put extra burden on the ordinary Iranian citizens, yet they are the people worth riling. Fed-up with religious extremism and authoritarian rule, they are showing signs of a cultural awakening which, given increasingly dire economic circumstances, could lead to revolution. In overthrowing the deeds of 1979, they would be performing a great service to humanity.

Appeasing an ambitious, authoritarian state with an uncompromising leader does not work, as the lead-up to WWII is testament to. Diplomatic negotiations and war-mongering are equally destructive. The fate of Iran, and the Middle East, lies with its citizenry.