Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Time to Recognize US-Japan Success Story

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Time to Recognize US-Japan Success Story

Article excerpt

AUGUST marks the 50th anniversary of the climactic events of World War II: the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945; the second bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9; and the Japanese surrender on Aug. 14. These anniversaries will occasion reflection and reconsideration, especially in light of the imposing present-day relationship between Japan and the United States.

The August events ended a harsh and bitter war, in which full US engagement began Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The events also mark the beginning of a remarkable success story in Japan's postwar development and in US-Japan relations. These accomplishments need fuller recognition.

Commentary tends to focus on tension between the two, notably around trade issues. Yet this conflict pales in comparison with the comity. One of the most remarkable developments in modern history is the rapidity with which many of the participants of World War II put behind them the bitterness of that event.

Just three months before the war ended, Gallup asked a cross section of Americans whether "the Japanese people have approved of the killing and starving of prisoners ...." Sixty-three percent said they thought the Japanese public entirely approved of the atrocities, while 25 percent said they approved in part. Only 2 percent absolved the public. Yet just six years later, in August 1951, when Gallup asked Americans to characterize their "feelings ... toward the Japanese people at present," 51 percent said they were friendly, 18 percent said they were neutral, and only 25 percent said they were unfriendly.

By and large, the Japanese have reciprocated this sentiment. My colleagues at the Roper Center and I have recently reviewed a huge collection of surveys in which respondents in each nation were asked to give their feelings and assessments of the other. Since 1981, the Japanese prime minister's office has asked the Japanese public: "What countries do you like?," specifying that they should choose up to three from a list naming many different nations. In each instance, the US has come in first - and by a very large margin over every other major trading partner. (Only Switzerland, which is favorably described in Japanese school textbooks as a model of industry and civility, comes close to the US in popular approval.) On the other hand, the US ranks near the bottom on this question: "What countries do you dislike?" In the latest survey available to us, done in March 1994, only 8 percent of Japanese respondents said they dislike the US, whereas 50 percent said Russia.

In surveys taken by the prime minister's office in 1994, 64 percent of Japanese respondents described the relationship between Japan and the US as basically good. Sixty-seven percent called the US-Japan Security Treaty - which was imposed in 1952 when Japan was still subordinate - as useful in maintaining "the peace and safety of Japan. …

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