TOKYO – On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we must calmly reflect upon the road to war, the path we have taken since it ended, and the era of the twentieth century. We must gain from the lessons of history the wisdom to guide our future.
More than one hundred years ago, vast colonies, possessed mainly by the Western powers, stretched across the world. With their overwhelming supremacy in technology, waves of Western colonial forces surged toward Asia in the nineteenth century. There is no doubt that the resulting sense of crisis drove Japan to pursue modernization. Japan established a constitutional government earlier than any other country in Asia, and preserved its independence throughout. The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.
After World War I, the movement for self-determination gained momentum and put brakes on colonization. It was a horrible war that claimed as many as ten million lives. With a strong desire for peace stirred in them, people founded the League of Nations and brought forth the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War. There emerged in the international community a new movement that sought to outlaw war itself.
At the beginning, Japan, too, kept in step with other countries. But with the Great Depression setting in and Western countries launching economic blocs involving their colonial possessions, Japan’s economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan’s sense of isolation deepened. It attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force. But Japan’s domestic political system could not serve as a brake to stop such attempts. In this way, Japan lost sight of the overall trends shaping the world.