Japanese Ambassador breaches protocol, pushes Australia to embrace ‘China threat’

As a nation Japan would not win many Nobel peace prizes.

For centuries its pirates pillaged Chinese coastal towns. In the 19th century carve-up of China, Japan gained Taiwan, the Liaodong peninsula and later Manchuria. In 1910 it colonised Korea. In 1937 it began its attack into China proper, killing close to an estimated 20 million people, before moving on to attack most of the rest of Asia. It also had the temerity to attack the USA and its Filipino colony- something our American friends tend to forget because both were beyond USA continental bounds.

So when a diplomat from Japan, the nation that in recent memory also attacked Australia, tells us we are now in danger from China, the nation which helped save us from that Japanese attack, we are entitled to wonder who is the pot and who is the kettle.

On top of this is the breach of diplomatic protocol involved when a diplomat of one country becomes aggressively involved in the policies of the country to which he is accredited. Diplomats are there to make peace not war.

This is a pity because postwar Japan has produced many fine diplomats. One of them was the senior Foreign Ministry official formerly handling relations with Asia and Australia, Tanaka Hitoshi.

Through extreme efforts – dozens of secret meetings in China with a top Pyongyang offical – Tanaka managed single-handedly to get North Korea to admit wrong and return five Japanese citizens abducted in postwar years.

More importantly he also managed to get the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il and Japan’s then prime minister, Koizumi Junichiro, to sign the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration in which Japan apologised for past bad colonial behaviour and promised serious economic aid in exchange for a North Korean moratorium on nuclear missile testing.

Sadly, that ground-breaking Declaration was to be killed by a later Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, claiming with no evidence whatsoever that North Korea held up to 800 or more Japanese, later reduced to an official figure of 17, which Pyongyang said had either died or were unknown.

For twenty years Tokyo has clung to this pretext for continuing hostile relations with Pyongyang, ignoring the chances for verification and for the rescue of other Japanese trapped in North Korea offered by the Declaration’s promise of normalised relations.

Meanwhile North Korea has given up on Japan and resumed its nuclear missile testing.

And the diplomat who almost succeeded in freeing 30 million North Koreans from semi-slavery and the rest of us from the threat of nuclear annihilation?

I happen to know him, we are members of the same club. Although quietly spoken it was clear he was devastated by what happened.

For negotiating that deal with Pyongyang his house was threatened with firebombing by fanatical rightists. His reputation was attacked with that curious blend of irrationality and vindictive ultra-nationalism inherited from Japan’s prewar years. He chose early retirement.

Sadly Australia does not get to know people like Tanaka Hitoshi.