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Japan: Responses to the Kyuma A-Bomb Statement

Former Defense Minister Kyuma Fumio‘s now-infamous statement [Ja] that the U.S. atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two “could not be helped“, subsequent qualifications [Ja] aside, has been widely seen as a major gaff, leaving the ruling Abe government in yet another mess. With only weeks to go before upcoming Upper House elections at the end of this month, some are arguing that this may be the fatal bombshell for the ruling LDP coalition. Kyuma, already famous for his embarrassing flip-flop statements regarding Japan's decision to enter the Iraq War, has become the third cabinet minister in the Abe government to have to be replaced (after the resignation of Sata Genichiro and the suicide of Matsuoka Toshikatsu). On top of which, as if that were not enough, there appear to be more coming.

Kyuma Fumio at the Pentagon

Kyuma has received support for his statements from unlikely corners of the English-language blogosphere in Japan, with some bloggers arguing that his words have been overstated and overpoliticized, and others giving him credit for seeing the war through American eyes.

Japanese-language bloggers, on the other hand, appear to have been less approving of the statement. Blogger shigeto2004 sets the tone for the debate:

広島、長崎への原爆投下を「しょうがない」と発言したことが問題となっていた久間章生防衛相が3日になって突然辞任することになった。そもそも、原爆の投下によってアジア太平洋戦争が終結したとする久間氏の歴史認識は決して正しいものとはいえないのだが(それ以上にソ連の対日参戦の影響の方が大きかった)、仮にその通りであったとしても、核兵器の使用は人道上決して許されないことなのだから、このような発言は閣僚の発言としては許されるものではないのは当然である。それに対して、野党のみならず与党の内部からも辞任を求める声が続出していたのも当然の反応であり、久間氏が自ら辞任を申し出たことも妥当な判断だといえよう。

Kyuma Fumio, who got himself into trouble with his statement that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki “could not be helped”, suddenly stepped down three days after the incident. Mr. Kyuma's perspective of history, according to which the Pacific War was concluded as a result of the atomic bombing [of Hiroshima and Nagasaki], is not correct by any means (the Soviets joining the war had a greater influence). Even if, however, we take this [perspective] to be true for argument's sake, the use of nuclear weapons remains nonetheless absolutely unacceptable, and therefore it is only natural that a statement like this, coming from a cabinet member, should not be tolerated. It thus seems natural to me, in response [to this statement], that voices demanding Kyuma's resignation were raised not only from the opposition parties, but also from within the ruling party itself; and it seems to me that Mr. Kyuma offering his own resignation was also an appropriate decision.

しかし、久間氏の発言からはこの発言の内容そのものに対する反省の念はあまり感じられず、参院選への悪影響を懸念しての辞任だという本音が見受けれることが引っ掛かるのである。この人は今回の発言の何が問題なのかをまったく理解していないのではないか。このような発言の根底にある思想は、核兵器の保有、使用も場合によっては、あるいはその目的によっては許容される、つまりは核兵器は「必要悪」だというものであり、それは少なくとも表向きは核廃絶を国是としてきた戦後日本の国家体制とは相容れないものなのである。

However, from what Kyuma has been saying publicly, I don't get the feeling that he has reflected on the content of his original statement; it strikes me that what really motivates him is a concern about the negative influence [of his statement] on the Upper House elections. I don't think he understands at all what it is that was so wrong about his statement. It is the line of thinking rooted in statements like this one that enable the provisional possession and use, depending on circumstances and aim, of nuclear weapons as a “necessary evil”; at the very least, this kind of thinking is in conflict with the public appearance of a post-war Japanese national framework that, as a policy, has advocated nuclear disarmament.

しかも、そのような政治思想を持っているのは久間氏だけに限ったことではなく、麻生太郎外相や中川昭一政調会長などの閣僚や自民党執行部も、過去に「核保有の議論をしておくのも大事なことだ」などと発言しているだけに、安倍内閣の中にはこのような考え方の人たちが少なからずいるということであろう。それゆえ、この問題については久間氏の辞任だけで幕引きとするのではなくて、野党勢力は安倍内閣の国防に対する考え方、あるいは国家観について徹底的に追及してその問題点を明らかにする必要があるのではないだろうか。

In addition, it is not only Mr. Kyuma who has these kinds of political ideas; Foreign Minister Aso Taro and chairman of the Policy Research Council Nakagawa Shoichi, as well as other cabinet ministers and members of the LDP leadership, have also made statements in the past that: “It is important that we discuss the issue of possession of nuclear arms.” There are surely many more members in Abe's cabinet who have a similar attitude [about this issue]. For this reason, Mr. Kyuma's resignation alone will not put an end to this problem; there is a need for opposition forces to put serious pressure on the Abe cabinet over its attitudes with respect to national defense and with respect to nationalism, and to bring to light the controversial issues involved in these attitudes.

Other bloggers questioned Abe's choice of replacement for Kyuma in former prime ministerial advisor Koike Yuriko. Blogger luxemburg writes:

小池百合子さんといえば今でも思い出す、2001年アフガニスタン攻撃の直前にテレビ番組に主婦たちと出演していて、主婦のほぼ全員が「アメリカは戦争をするべきではない」という意見だったのに対して、やるべきだと主張していた。決して主婦の意見を受けて何かを言うのではなく頭ごなしに素人には国際政治はわからないだろうが、という態度で非常に不愉快だった。

The name Koike Yuriko reminds me: just before the attack on Afghanistan in 2001, she appeared on a TV program with a group of housewives, nearly all of whom had the opinion that “America should not go to war”, and insisted that in fact America should [go to war]. She didn't listen and respond to what the housewives were saying at all, but instead treated them like a bunch of stupid lay people who didn't seem to know anything about international politics. It was extremely unpleasant.

 日本の政治家は、アメリカがやってしまった戦争について、追認し、支持するとか理解するというのが通常だが、小池さんはやる前から、戦争するべきだという。日本の政治家としては珍しいかもしれない。

Many Japanese politicians approved of, supported and showed understanding for America's war, but Mrs. Koike was already saying they should go to war before the war had even started. For a Japanese politician, I guess she's pretty unusual.

Bloggers from the actual targets of the A-bomb attacks expressed anger at the former Defense Minister (who, it should be noted, is himself from Nagasaki). From Hiroshima, blogger yuma writes:

広島出身として、また唯一の被爆国の人間として、彼の発言には大変憤りを感じた。
「歴史は繰り返される」というが、戦争や原爆という決して繰り返してはいけない人類の過ちを彼は容認しているということだ。

As someone who comes from Hiroshima, and also as a human being from the only country in the world to have been the victim of atomic bomb attacks, I felt a lot of resentment at [Mr. Kyuma] for what he said.
They say that “history repeats itself,” and yet he is approving of war and the atomic bomb, mistakes of humanity that cannot be repeated.

そうではないと弁明していたが時すでに遅し。むしろ軽々しく「原爆」という史実を片付けてしまうことに問題がある。原爆という軍事手段は賛成か反対か、得策なのか否かという余地のある問題ではない。原爆は「絶対悪」である。
若いからこそ、原爆を知らないからこそ、こういう問題は真剣に対峙しなくてはならないと思う。

He has explained that this is not what he meant, but it is too late now. There is a problem when someone just casually dismisses the historical fact of the “A-Bomb”. The question of whether you approve of or oppose the use of the atomic bomb as a means of conducting military operations demands a decisive answer: it is not like the problem of whether you approve of a policy or not. The atomic bomb is an “absolute evil”.
Because people are young, and because they do not know about the atomic bomb, I believe that we need to seriously confront this problem.

Another blogger from Hiroshima, Apeirophobia, writes:

久間章生防衛相の発言。
広島出身として言葉がでない。

The statement [about the atomic bombing] by Defense Minister Kyuma Fumio.
As someone from Hiroshima, words fail me.

しょうがないという発言が正しいか、間違っているかはよく分からない。
でも広島市への原子爆弾投下を読んでもらいたい。
特に「原子爆弾投下直後」以降の項。

I don't really know if the statement that [the bombing] “could not be helped” is correct or not.
But I'd like him to read [about] the atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima.
Particularly the section entitled “the immediate aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb”.

歴史的にとか政治的にとかそういう見方もあるかもしれないけど
「しょうがない」の一言で片付くことじゃない気がする。

There are ways to look at this from a historical perspective and from a political perspective, but
I don't think such perspectives simply dismiss it with a few words, as something that “could not be helped”.

原爆資料館に入った最初にある蝋人形。
皮膚が溶け、その皮膚が指先から垂れ下がっている。
最初に見たときにコレが地獄だと思った。

There is a wax model that you see just when you enter the Atomic Bomb Museum.
The skin is melting, and trailing down off the [model's] fingers.
When I first saw it, I thought to myself: this must be hell.

それ以来、
空に飛行機が通るたびに建物の影に逃げていた。
サイレンを聞くと空襲警報だと思って窓の近くから離れていた。
8時15分という時間が非常に怖かった。
ケロイドの人を見ると泣きそうになった。
それくらい恐ろしかった。

From that time on,
Whenever I saw planes flying through the sky, I would hide in the shade of buildings.
When I heard the sound of a siren, I would imagine that it was an air-raid alarm, and move away from the windows.
8.15 a.m. became a very scary time.
This was how horrible it was.

Finally, a third blogger from Hiroshima fears for the future of Japan:

腹が立ち、この国の未来を危ぶむニュースです。

結果的に戦争は終わったかもしれないけど
原爆投下を正当化する理由には到底ならないと思う。

This news makes me angry and makes me fear for the future of this country

The war did finally come to an end, but
I do not believe that this can ever serve as a reason to justify the dropping of the atomic bomb.

広島出身の私は、幼いころからいやというほど
原爆の教育は受けてきた。

どれだけたくさんの人が犠牲になったか知っていますか?

I am from Hiroshima, and, starting from the time when I was an infant,
I have received a lot of education about the atomic bomb.

Do you know how many people were victimized?

今も放射能に苦しんでいる人がいることを知っていますか?

一体、何を見て感じたらこんな無責任な発言ができるのでしょうか?

Even now, there are people suffering from the effects of radiation, did you know that?

What on Earth would someone have to see or feel to bring them to make such an irresponsible statement?

安部総理。

いい加減にしてください。

国民は、この国の未来が見えません・・・・

Prime Minister Abe.

This is enough already.

The Japanese people cannot see the future of this country…

10 comments

  • The problem is that Kyuma’s words were seen as an acceptance of the A-bombings, when they were anything but. You can say that they were inevitable without accepting the reasons or moral decision involved.

    It seems quite likely to me that the Holocaust was in many ways inevitable given German thinking with regards to the Jews at the time: encouraged deportation, mass deportation, further ghettoisation and the rest is history. That is not to say that I agree with the decision made by the Nazis, far from it; it is abhorrent.

    In Japan, particularly in Hiroshima (I cannot say for sure about Nagasaki, but I would believe my statements will hold to some extent) where a sense of victimhood is particularly strong, people are quick to quiet any discussion that might lesson the strength of that victimhood. The effect has greater significance there than the cause. Concerns about the belligerence and the lack of personal mercy of the Japanese government at that time, the concerns of the US in terms of manpower, plus the wider actions of the Japanese in East Asia have been put to the side in favour of the suffering of the kokumin.

    Nuclear weapons are abhorrent, however, their use by the US is understandable. Perhaps more so than some other wartime activities, such as those of Unit 731 in Manchuria.

  • Marcus

    I thought the North korea response was interesting too

    And the A-bomb sufferes were of course not too happy either, especially as Kyuma didn’t have the guts to meet them and apologize

  • Marcus

    oops, meant to include this link too Kyuma says no to meeting with A-bomb victims

  • Atomic weapons are abhorrent, that goes without saying.

    What I love is, as I mentioned in my piece (thanks for the link, Chris), that Nagasaki Mayor Taue felt the need to lecture Kyuma on sensitivity to hibakusha. Now we get people from Hiroshima (especially) today, who seem to be under the impression that no one outside of Hiroshima is aware of how terrible the atomic bomb was and who are somehow victims despite having been born decades after the attack lecturing Kyuma on sensitivity to hibakusha.

    Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but Fumio Kyuma was born in 1940 in. . . (drumroll, please). . . Nagasaki.

    Maybe, just maybe he’s heard a little bit about the atomic bombs.

  • Marcus

    I think Nagasaki Mayor Taue pretty well knows Kyuma is from Nagasaki – as it happens, that’s his electorate and that’s where he’s campaigning has been taken place.

  • […] Japan: Responses to the Kyuma A-Bomb Statement  […]

  • The bombing of the civilian population of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was a war crime on a massive scale, just like the Japanese atrocities at Nanjing, and on a lesser scale, the My Lai massacre. Unfortunately, a “War Crime” is determined by the victor.

    How ANYONE, much less a Japanese person, could make the statement that Kyuma Fumio made is outrageous.

    It was self-serving pandering to right-wing US “interests” in Japan. Thankfully it backfired.

  • […] Aussage, die Atombombenabwürfe auf Nagasaki und Hiroshima seien unvermeidbar gewesen, hatte Chris Salzberg im Sinn, als er japanische Blogs betrachtete. Kyuma (der selbst in Nagasaki geboren wurde) ist […]

  • […] made his famous statement that the bombing “could not have been helped”. The statement caused an uproar which culminated in his eventual […]

  • […] 広島・長崎の原爆問題が日本の政局において現在でも存続することが、数週間前の久間章生前防衛大臣の有名な「原爆投下はしようがなかった」との発言で浮き彫りとなった。この発言は騒動を招き、最終的に大臣の辞任へと発展した。 […]

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