Big Talk

The World is Reconsidering the Tokyo Trials Historical Viewpoint

Michio Ezaki struck out as a policy analyst two years ago, and has written books on extensive research from the United States and Europe that is critical of the Tokyo Trials-centered view of history. Who did Japan Fight? American Investigations Into Covert Comintern Operations, published in December 2017, was awarded the first APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize. Toshio Motoya spoke with Ezaki, who studies intelligence history, about the latest developments in American historical discussions.

Ezaki won the APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize for his book showcasing the latest American historical research

(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today, and congratulations on winning the first APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize.

(E) Thank you. It is a great honor.

(M) I started the “True Interpretations of Modern History” Essay Contest in 2008. Toshio Tamogami, then chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, won the first Grand Prize (Fuji Seiji Prize) for “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” The government saw his essay as problematic, and Tamogami was dismissed and criticized uniformly in the media. However, this incident woke up many citizens, and today it is possible to openly discuss topics such as constitutional reform and obtaining nuclear weapons. I wanted to further confirm how the public opinion has transformed in the decade since then, so I founded the new APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize run by the APA Japan Restoration Foundation. Your prize-winning book, Who did Japan Fight? American Investigations Into Covert Comintern Operations, focuses on Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government by M. Stanton Evans, which was published in the United States and has not been translated into Japanese. It also refers to other documents and incorporates your own unique views. What inspired you to publish this book?

(E) I wanted to somehow amend the historical view that Japan waged an aggressive war, which is prevalent in our country. In 1995, 50 years after the end of World War II, there was a movement in the National Diet for a Diet resolution apologizing for the war. Toshikazu Kase was the father of Hideaki Kase, the head of the APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize Judging Committee, and also Japan’s first ambassador to the United Nations (UN). Toshikazu chaired the Executive Committee for the National Movement on the 50th Anniversary of the Cessation of Hostilities. He worked in opposition to this Diet resolution, one facet of which was researching how society perceived World War II. The person in charge of the study was Kazuo Sato, then a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University. I was involved, too. We thoroughly researched American and European materials on the Tokyo Trials, including those not translated into Japanese.
Our results showed that politicians and scholars in the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands, India, Southeast Asia, and many other regions censured the so-called “Tokyo Trials historical viewpoint” that portrays Japan as an aggressor nation. This is summarized in the book Tokyo Trial as Judged by Intellectuals (Meiseisha). I also visited Toshikazu at his home in Kamakura to speak with him. He said Japan was praised by the nations participating in the 1995 Asian-African Conference (Bandung Conference) for stepping up the pace of Asia’s independence through the Greater East Asian War. This inspired me to turn my eyes to historical research across the world, chiefly discussions on history in the U.S.

(M) Twenty years have already passed since the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, but no one in Japan is speaking out against the Tokyo Trials historical view, although it is frequently discussed in other countries. Japanese people who benefitted from the war defeat, mainly graduates of the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law, formed a network spanning the political world, bureaucracy, financial and legal circles, mass media, and academia. They have worked together to maintain the status quo and stifle negative comments on the Tokyo Trials viewpoint.

(E) Yes, that’s why there are few people in the political and financial worlds who speak out like you do.

(M) I started doubting the general historical awareness in Japan after going abroad and talking with top leaders in different countries, all of whom praise Japan. When I came back, I thought it was bizarre to see how the Japanese media consistently bashes its own country. That’s why I started publishing Apple Town, this monthly magazine, 27 years ago to express my views. I champion the concept of “theoretical modern history,” a type of history in which we logically analyze if something is probable without being bound by the Tokyo Trials historical viewpoint. I think your book uses evidence to clearly denote a direction towards breaking free from this viewpoint.

(E) I am so glad to hear you say that. Before striking out on my own as a policy analyst two years ago, I was involved in policy work with National Diet members. But while there are lively political discussions in Nagata-cho, almost no one discusses history. That’s why I became an independent commentator who writes books. I’ve published four of my own books over the past two years, all of which have been number one in Amazon’s Second Sino-Japanese War/Pacific War ranking. I feel that more people are interested in this trend of reconsidering history.

The U.S. has switched to an anti-Chinese stance, leading to a new Sino-American Cold War

(M) I only wish you had released this book sooner…

(E) Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government was published in the U.S. in 2012, so I don’t think I could have.

(M) The VENONA files, containing decrypted messages between Soviet spies in the U.S. and Moscow around World War II, were released in 1995. I imagine this took some time.

(E) Just like Japan, the American media and academic world are controlled by liberals. For many years, it was impossible for people to openly talk about Joseph Stalin’s responsibility for the war, or the issues with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s diplomacy with Japan.
However, the Cold War ended in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Eastern European countries that gained independence started pursuing Stalin’s responsibility for the war. The VENONA files were released to the public in 1995. These are secret messages between Soviet spies in the U.S. and Soviet Union during the war that were intercepted and decoded. They revealed that Soviet spies had infiltrated the Democratic Roosevelt government, which pushed Japan into the war, before World War II.
Moreover, today’s global crisis stemming from China and North Korea has encouraged Americans to take another look at history. The current Communist Party of China (CPC) government and North Korean government were founded after World War II. An indirect cause for the birth of these communist administrations in Asia was the Yalta Conference towards the end of World War II, where the Roosevelt government agreed for Asia to be put under the influence of the Soviet Union. The American Democratic government was also easy on China afterwards, allowing it to gain military strength. This has been recognized anew in recent years.
These factors combined, leading to vigorous discussions from around 2000 by American conservatives on the topic of how Comintern maneuvered to impact American politics.

(M) I see, so that’s why that theme is such a hot topic today. The U.S. majorly misjudged China by seeing it as a poor, socialist nation that would switch to democracy after gaining economic wealth. That’s why American National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger visited China in 1971, which led to a further visit by President Richard Nixon the following year. Diplomatic relations were normalized, and the U.S. has given China military and economic aid since then. But now that China is prosperous, it is augmenting its military force and aiming to win global hegemony from the U.S. by 2049. President Donald J. Trump is understandably out of patience, and he appointed Randall G. Schriver, known for his hard stance on China, as assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. Trump also started a trade war with China, ushering in an era of a new Sino-American cold war.

(E) You are correct.

(M) I don’t think the Sino-American relationship will be easily mended. Trump will probably win re-election to be in office for the next six years. The U.S. will have to find an anti-Chinese president to succeed him during this period. Japan must also be prepared for the new cold war, which will likely stretch on for some time. However, the mass media and political worlds pander to China, and lack a fighting spirit to take a firm stand. The media is bound by the Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement and cannot report correctly on China. It only covers examples of business successes in China, yet many Japanese companies that expanded into China have failed. Their local assets have been confiscated when they tried to withdraw, and they have been sued for providing insufficient retirement money to Chinese employees. The news is silent on things of this sort. Now that China is trying to gain global hegemony, the responsibility falls not only with the U.S., but also with Japan for continually providing vast amounts of Official Development Aid (ODA). Japan must come up with some way to deal with this.

(E) The Japanese government should do more to protect Japanese companies that set up operations in China.

(M) Last year there was an outcry on Chinese social media about my book, which denies the Nanjing Massacre, being placed in APA Hotel rooms. The Chinese government criticized me by name and prohibited the booking of APA Hotel rooms from China. I responded in an undaunted way, saying that freedom of speech is guaranteed in Japan, and that we must not allow speech to be stifled by unilateral pressure. I also asked them to point out any actual errors in my book. The Chinese government was at a loss for words. Japanese people started rapidly booking rooms to show their support, which brought business benefits. Are you subjected to fierce criticisms about your books?

(E) Some people judge me negatively for ridiculous reasons, because they regard the theory that Comintern helped start the Japanese-American war as a type of conspiracy theory. That’s entirely wrong. Kyoto University Professor Emeritus Terumasa Nakanishi introduced to Japan the discipline of “intelligence history.” Based on this field, I research how Comintern actually influenced international politics. The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and other American and European universities, also handle the topic of Comintern’s machinations in their studies of history. Yet this has not been well understood in Japan, despite Nakanishi’s great efforts.

(M) You provide good proof to make logical claims. I hope many people will read your books and be inspired to rethink their historical views. The Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement twists the media’s reporting, but it is difficult for private-sector companies to fix this. I hope the Japanese government will intervene to repeal this agreement. We will need to negotiate to that end, and also to reform the constitution to expand our military power.

The U.S. is abandoning international cooperation in favor of nonintervention

(E) There is a growing movement for constitutional change, but I still feel like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is fighting alone.

(M) I don’t get the sense that Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Diet members are truly committed to reforming the constitution. More than two thirds of the seats in both houses are supposedly occupied by Diet members in favor of constitutional change, but they don’t agree on what to amend, and I’m not sure they will be able to come to a consensus. If a national referendum is held, the current public opinion would make winning extremely difficult. I think constitutional change is unlikely to succeed unless reformers join together to make united efforts. Politicians lack a true understanding of Japan’s circumstances and a sufficient sense of crisis regarding national security. I think Japan might end up as a Chinese autonomous region if things continue in this way.

(E) We must increase the number of politicians and businesspeople who comprehend the importance of discussing constitutional change and national security.

(M) Entrepreneurs fundamentally don’t want to make enemies – many compromise and focus on business prosperity, rather than boldly expressing their views. This is even more true at listed companies, where managers cannot refute criticisms from shareholders who are concerned that speaking out might affect business. Yet Japan is actually facing a major crisis right now. At least we are fortunate that Trump is the American president. If Hillary Clinton had won the election…

(E) I shudder to think.

(M) Japan must also formulate a national strategy encompassing the post-Trump era. After reforming the constitution to create a self-defense structure, we should transform the Japan-U.S. Security treaty into an equal one so we can be independent. China abolished its presidential term limit of two terms (10 years), so Xi Jinping may continue to hold power for some time. North Korea has a stable, hereditary administration. To counteract these, Japan and the U.S. need stable, powerful leaders. In fact, I wish Abe could serve four terms.

(E) Certainly.

(M) I believe Japan should have shared the Hull Note with the world right after receiving it. The American people and Congress knew nothing about it. The American citizens were highly opposed to war, and they would definitely have been against opening war with Japan if they knew the content of the Hull Note. However, the U.S. leveraged the attack on Pearl Harbor to immediately get the public opinion on the side of war under the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor.” This is just like when the American government stirred up antagonism against Mexico by saying “Remember the Alamo” and against Spain with “Remember the Maine.” Japanese people have long been unskilled at information warfare, which is still true today. For some time I have proposed that Japan establish a new “Ministry of Information” with an annual budget of 300 billion yen and a staff of 3,000. Today’s wars mainly employ information and cyberattacks rather than military force. We must become competent at this type of warfare, yet Japan doesn’t even have an anti-espionage law. I cannot deny that Japanese people seem overly complacent and accustomed to peace.

(E) I agree. I think Trump’s most important belief is the need to rethink “Wilsonianism.” This refers to President Woodrow Wilson, who advocated establishing the UN after World War I. He believed democracy would bring about world peace, and the U.S. actively pushed other countries into democracy based on this thinking. However, this was not very successful – is democracy deeply rooted in the Middle East or China today? In contrast to Wilsonianism, “Jacksonian democracy” was espoused by President Andrew Jackson, who believed a balance of power would maintain world peace and thought the U.S. should not force democracy on others. Trump adheres to Jacksonian democracy, and says the past 100 years of American diplomatic policy based on Wilsonianism was wrong.
In addition to the U.S., it is essential that Japan boost its military power and help maintain a military balance against the military expansion of China and North Korea. I believe it is pointless to try to force these countries to become democratic. It seems like Japan doesn’t really understand this major transformation in American foreign policy, from Wilsonianism to Jacksonian democracy.

(M) It is true that Trump has spoken in ways evoking Jacksonian democracy, such as referring to the possibility of Japanese and South Korean nuclear armament during his campaign. Japan must take this chance to abolish the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (a Diet resolution) and conclude a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S. China, Russia, and North Korea are nuclear states, and maintaining a nuclear balance is the most crucial issue in East Asia. In response to the Soviet Union’s SS-20 intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) stationed Pershing II medium-range nuclear missiles and other weapons. Afterwards, many policies and discussions took place on maintaining a nuclear balance in Europe, including the removal of both types of missiles and nuclear sharing between four NATO countries and the U.S. I think Japan should also share nuclear weapons with the U.S. to ensure a nucellar balance in East Asia. However, Japan has yet to conduct mature discussions on nuclear weapons.

The tax system should encourage donations for building policy think tanks

(E) The U.S. is divided into two factions in terms of Japan policy: those that desire a strong Japan, and those that don’t. Trump is in favor of a Japan with strong military power for peace and stability in Asia. As you say, the Trump presidency is an opportunity for Japan to strengthen its national security.

(M) Few Diet members can advocate for that.

(E) Shoichi Nakagawa was an uncommon politician who could have done so, but unfortunately he passed away before he could accomplish what he wanted to. Politicians should take more risks.

(M) I think the electoral district system is one reason they are averse to risk. The electoral districts are the same size as those of municipal assembly members, so politicians are run ragged campaigning and have no time to think about the nation or its interests. I preferred the medium constituency system.

(E) Japan and the U.S. have different electoral systems, but the U.S. experienced a similar issue in the past when politicians did not take on issues of national interest. Members of the business world started founding private-sector think tanks to support politicians. An example is the Heritage Foundation established by building manufacturer managers and others in 1973. It is risky for corporate managers to make direct political statements, so they built a structure in which they can impact politics through these think tanks. Evans, who wrote Stalin’s Secret Agents, was a think tank researcher. People say think tanks helped elect Ronald Reagan, who wanted to take on the Soviet Union and communism. Japan should revise its tax system so prosperous companies and individuals can donate more money.

(M) I agree, but bureaucrats maintain authority by collecting money and then distributing it.

(E) That is a socialist way of thinking. With free democracy, I think people should have more choices about how to use the money they have earned. I hope the tax system will be altered so the Ministry of Finance does not fully control how politicians use their money.

(M) Yes. Also, the Japanese bureaucratic organization is too powerful. Politicians need to work hard.

(E) Reading your essays, I can tell that you write based on a good understanding of global trends. People in Japan who believe in rethinking the Tokyo Trials historical viewpoint are regarded as narrow-minded nationalists, but this is based on broader academic trends across the world. Japanese liberals are isolated, so they don’t comprehend this.

(M) The same applies to the Japanese media, which is constantly shackled by the Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement and Press Code. We are supposed to have freedom of speech, but people on TV simply voice inoffensive opinions. Those who share different, correct views end up disappearing from the media. My wish is for more balanced, unbiased reporting.

(E) Me too.

(M) At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”

(E) I want young people to pay more attention to the global trend of re-thinking modern history. In Who did Japan Fight?, I discussed Evans, a well-known advocate of reexamining history. A fairly large number of books reviewing history have been published in the U.S. and Europe, but I think less than one thousandth of them are published in Japan. Many young people are proficient at English, so I hope they will read books in the original languages and expand their perspectives. With a global viewpoint, they will certainly realize the Tokyo Trials historical viewpoint is mistaken.

(M) Yes, but I also think books must be translated into Japanese to promote the truth to many people.

(E) With the generous APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize money, I plan to translate American and European books of this type and publish them in Japan.

(M) Please do so! I expect that will help awaken many people. Thank you for joining me today.

(E) Thank you.

Date of dialogue: November 21, 2018


Michio Ezaki
Born in Tokyo in 1962. After graduating from Kyushu University, he has worked as a monthly magazine editor, association employee, and staff member working in National Diet policy, conducting research on national security, intelligence, and modern history. Ezaki has penned the column “Seiron: Comments on Current Events” in Just Arguments magazine since May 2014. His many published works include The Occupation of Japan and “Defeat Revolution” Crisis (PHP Shinsho), Who Did Japan Fight? (KK Bestsellers), and Comintern’s Scheme and Japan’s War Defeat (PHP Shinsho).