- Last Updated: 3:15 AM, October 13, 2011
- Posted: 11:05 PM, October 12, 2011
A stunning revelation from a Wikileaks document dump shows President Obama badly bungling relations with our oldest democratic ally in Asia.
In a September 2009 cable prior to Obama’s official visit to Tokyo, our ambassador informs Washington that Tokyo had denied Obama’s bid to go to Hiroshima to publicly apologize for America’s dropping the atom bomb there -- in short, to turn the defeat of Japan into a matter of national humiliation for America.
The Japanese government told the ambassador this would be a “non-starter,” because the gesture would encourage domestic anti-nuclear groups and leftist groups opposed to Japan’s military cooperation with the United States.
With the rise of an increasingly militaristic China and an increasingly unstable North Korea, that cooperation is more vital than ever for both nations. Since 1960, Japan has looked to the US nuclear umbrella to protect its territory; since the 1970s, the United States has encouraged Japanese Self-Defense Forces to develop a bigger conventional capability, especially a strong navy, in order to take some of the burden off our own forces.
Despite some bumps in the road over our base in Okinawa, and Japanese disappointment we aren’t taking a tougher stand on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the relationship works for the future stability of East Asia.
But it’s also a prickly one, and re-opening old wounds of the kind Obama contemplated could enflame Japanese opinion against its reliance on its American big brother and force Tokyo to try to chart a more independent course.
That would be bad news for US interests in Asia, of course (goodbye to our bases in Japan, for example). But it would also leave Japan facing North Korea, China (with whom a clash over oil drilling rights in the East China Sea seems inevitable) and a rising India on its own -- and with Japan’s sea lanes, the country’s life line, looking vulnerable.
Future Japanese governments would have little choice except to join the region’s burgeoning arms race -- and at least one former Japanese defense official has said the end of the US alliance would probably force Japan to build its own nuclear arsenal.
How ironic, if Obama’s attempt to commemorate the Japanese victims of a nuclear bomb had ultimately led that same country to get nuclear weapons themselves.
Left unsaid was that the gesture would also muddy the issue of who really has something to apologize for in World War II -- America or a Japan that tried to enslave an entire continent and massacred millions of Chinese and hundreds of thousands of Koreans, Burmese and other “subject nations” in the process.
It’s worth considering the full implications of all this.
First, we have a Japanese government with a stronger sense of America’s interests, and our honor and self respect, than our own president -- a president who sought to apologize for using a weapon that ended the most violent and brutal war in history.
A president who is either ignorant or blind to the fact that if we hadn’t used the bomb and had been forced to invade Japan instead, at least 2 million Japanese would have died in a full-scale invasion of Japan, instead of the 300,000 killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- not to mention the 1 million US casualties that the War Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff calculated would come in that assault.
And a president who thinks that such groveling is the way to build good relations with an Asian ally -- when a far better way passed him right by.
That came last March, after the worst disaster to hit Japan since the Second World War. The biggest earthquake in the country’s history and follow-up tsunami left 28,000 Japanese killed or missing, triggered a near-disastrous nuclear accident and shattered its economy. Japan was left feeling stunned and helpless and alone, as it contemplated the worst destruction since Hiroshima.
This was the moment when our president should have ordered up Air Force One and flown out to Tokyo, in order to tour the damage with the US media and to reassure the Japanese people that America stood shoulder to shoulder with our 50-year Asian ally. Then he could have offered immediate help in getting US companies involved in the reconstruction of Japan, which will be going on for years -- a not-to-be-missed opportunity to help our economy, as well as Japan’s.
But Obama largely ignored the disaster, and went to a conference in Rio de Janeiro, instead -- maybe because he couldn’t see anything America could apologize for. That was a shame -- and a sorry excuse for a foreign policy.Follow @NYPostOpinion