IN OTHER WORDS: Offensive act

Japan’s new foreign minister, Taro Aso, has been neither honest nor wise in the inflammatory statements he has been making about Japan’s disastrous era of militarism, colonialism and war crimes that culminated in the Second World War.

Besides offending neighbouring countries that Japan needs as allies and trading partners, he is disserving the people he has been pandering to. World War II ended before most of today’s Japanese were born. Yet public discourse in Japan and modern history lessons in its schools have never properly come to terms with the country’s responsibility for terrible events as the mass kidnapping and sexual enslavement. Two of the most recent were Aso’s suggestion that Japan’s emperor ought to visit the militaristic Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese war criminals are among those honoured, and his claim that Taiwan owes its high educational standards to enlightened Japanese policies during the 50-year occupation.

Mr Aso has also been going out of his way to inflame Japan’s already difficult relations with Beijing by characterising China’s long-term military build-up as a “considerable threat” to Japan. China has no recent record of threatening Japan. It was the other way around. Mr Aso’s sense of diplomacy is as odd as his sense of history.