Japan and Its Past

A Japanese publisher has canceled plans for a Japanese translation of Iris Chang's "The Rape of Nanking." It's a reminder of Japan's continued inability to come to grips with the atrocities its troops committed across Asia and the Pacific in World War II.

Ms. Chang's book details the 1937-38 capture of the eastern Chinese city, now known as Nanjing. In the rampage that followed, Japanese soldiers raped and murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians in one of the most barbaric episodes on record.

The Japanese publisher wanted Chang to make changes in the book that she found unacceptable. It then proposed releasing the volume simultaneously with a Japanese study criticizing her work. She refused to consent. Several Japanese rightists, scholars, and even government officials claim Chang has twisted facts and exaggerated Japanese actions.

Most historians say otherwise. The result is yet another episode in which Japan refuses to face up to its wartime actions - whether the murder of civilians in Nanking and Hong Kong, the use of Korean and other women as sex slaves, or the mistreatment of British, American, and other prisoners of war. This attitude sows mistrust between Japan and its neighbors.

It stands in stark contrast to Germany, which has spent much of the postwar period trying to understand and atone for the Nazi period. And it serves as a lesson about the need to educate Serbs, Croats, and others about the war crimes of their soldiers and paramilitaries in the former Yugoslavia.

Chang's American publisher is now seeking another Japanese partner. We trust one will be found soon.

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