BEIJING, Jan. 1-- New Year's Day is usually a moment of joy and celebration, of pause and meditation, and of reflection and introspection.
That is why it is particularly disconcerting that as the world advances into another year, Shinzo Abe is leading Japan to retreat further away from the right track of history.
Less than a week ago, the sitting prime minister of Japan staged an outrageous provocation against other Asian nations and the entire world by visiting a controversial shrine that glorifies 14 convicted Class A war criminals of World War II.
The flagrant move amounted to a barefaced denial of the abhorrent atrocities imperialist Japan committed during that dark chapter of humanity, and a blatant refusal to face up to and learn from history.
Abe's conspicuous lack of historical honesty contrasts shamefully with the courage and vision of late West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who 43 years ago dropped to his knees at the monument to victims of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in a spontaneous act of genuine repentance.
He said no words, but his silent apology spoke a lot: Germany repents its history, is willing to make up for the past, and stands ready to earn the international trust it needs to move on.
The sincere remorse and in-depth reflection of Brandt and other German leaders paved the way for their nation to be accepted by the international community. The moment Brandt knelt down, his nation stood up.
Apparently, Abe did not heed the lesson. Pandering to the increasingly radical right-wing elements in the Japanese political circle, he is leading Japan down a dangerous path of provocation and isolation.
Brandt once said those who forgot history were sick in spirit. The resounding international chorus of condemnation and concern in response to Abe's shrine visit should be strong enough to inject some sobriety into the Japanese leadership.
As an economic and political heavyweight, Japan has an inherent responsibility to play a constructive role in regional and global affairs. Abe and like-minded Japanese politicians should realize that now they are spawning more uncertainties in an already volatile region.
Global peace and regional stability need an honest and well-behaved Japan. The Japanese people and the international community should join hands to make sure that Japan behaves that way.