Friday, February 19, 2010

Shigemitsu Mamoru - A brave diplomat and Class A war criminal

Shigemitsu Mamoru (the man with a hat and a stick) was standing on battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay (September, 1945) to sign the surrender, as a representative of Japanese government.  He carried a stick because he lost his right leg by a bomb thrown by a Korean terrorist in Shanghai.  Standing right was General Umezu, who represented Imperial Japanese Army.  Shigemitsu describes the fact that the Americans demanded signatures from both government and military as a symbol of out of control military, the fact recognized even by the Americans.
 Shigemitsu signs the surrender on the battleship.

The book I refereed to, 昭和の動乱, is a best history book of Japan during 1920-1945 period.  The book gives a reasonable narrative to the situation spiraling into a catastrophic war. This might be the English translation.  He was a British style liberal diplomat and an important player during the war time.  He was later arrested as a class A war criminal because a Soviet prosecutor insisted that his handling of border crash between Korea and Soviet (battle of Lake Khasan) is an act of aggression.  Shigemitsu was not a military commander, but an ambassador to Soviet at the time who was trying to establish cease fire.  Nevertheless, he was arrested and later convicted as a class A war criminal.  Why this was possible was beyond normal understanding, except that the tribunal was a political show.  Seven year imprisonment sentence were later shortened to four year and seven months.  He wrote this book during that prison time.  After independence, he was active as a politician and became a minister of foreign affairs in Hatoyama Ichiro cabinet (the grandfather of Hatoyama Yukio). 

Shigemitsu negotiated with Soviets to reopen the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.  This was necessary for Japan to join UN, because Soviets, as a permanent member of security counsel, vetoing the motion.  The negotiation was finalized by Hatoyama.  The diplomatic relationship enabled the repatriation of 500,000 Japanese captives who were enslaved in glags in Siberia by Soviets, who simply broke the non-aggression treaty to grab anything and anybody they could.  100,000 perished before they could come back home.  Shigemitsu gave acceptance speech when Japan joined UN in 1956, and one month later he died.

Shigemitsu defines the irresponsible behavior of Imperial Japanese Army and Navy as a consequence of the flaw in Meiji Constitution, which gave the emperor, not the government, the power to control the armed forces.  Since the emperor (Hirohito) did not give orders and stayed away from the politics, Army and Navy bureaucrats used this as a foundation to do whatever they wanted, and war plan was haphazardly created by a small group of people outside the control of government.  In addition to the division between the government and military, Army and Navy were divided. The situation was different when Japan fought Sino-Japanese war, as evidenced by 褰々録 written by Mutsu Munemitsu.  Then primer minister, Ito Hirobumi, had a total control of the military at that time.  It is ironic that Constitution written by Ito himself produced the devastating results decades later, when all the Meiji revolutionaries died out.  The last one, Saionji Kimmochi died one year before the Pearl Harbor attack.

Some criticize Yasukuni shrine because class A war criminals are enshrined.  Then I wonder if they know Shigemitsu Mamoru.  He was not killed, so he is not enshrined. He was convicted but he has nothing to be ashamed of.  Sometimes I also think of lieutenant general Okada Tasuku, who was tried and sentenced to death by hanging at Yokohama class BC tribunal.  Okada Tasuku sentenced to death US pilots of B29 bombers who did carpet bombing of Nagoya.  His logic was that they were captured as war criminals, not prisoners of war who have legal protection, because carpet bombing targeting civilians is violation of international law.  He maintained his argument in Yokohama tribunal, took all the responsibility, and accepted the death sentence as a matter of fact.  For Okada Tasuku, the court was simply an extension of military defense in a legal form.  That was why he kept on protecting his men.  After his death sentence, even his prosecutor submitted a plea to save his life.  He was killed on Sept 17, 1949.

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