Abe says he will express ‘remorse’ over WWII
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday he would express “remorse” over World War II this month, as a government panel condemned the country’s past aggression against its Asian neighbors.
Abe is preparing his closely watched remarks for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, expected to be released ahead of August 15, the date Japan surrendered to the Allies.
The wording of Abe’s statement will be heavily scrutinized by mainland China and Korea, which still dispute Tokyo’s version of its wartime history and who are waiting to see if he repeats earlier apologies for Japan’s militarism in the 20th Century.
“I will express remorse over the past war, our post-war path as a pacifist nation, and how Japan should further contribute to the Asia-Pacific region and the world in the future,” Abe told reporters.
The nationalist leader, whose government has pushed through controversial reforms to expand the role of Japan’s military, also said he would follow previous explicit prime ministerial apologies over the country’s past “as a whole.”
Abe has repeatedly talked of the need for what he calls a “forwardlooking attitude” that concentrates on the positive role Japan has played — and continues to play — in Asia since its surrender in 1945.
That has set alarm bells ringing in China and Korea, which suffered under Japan’s imperial expansion and say any attempt to tone down explicit apologies made by previous leaders should be discouraged.
‘The responsibilities of the Japanese government ... are
Abe’s comments Thursday, on the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, came the same day as a panel set up to advise on the wording of the war statement condemned Japan’s colonial past.
Japan colonized the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and the group also pointed to the country’s aggression in China from 1931.
China says more than 20 million of its citizens died as a result of Japan’s invasion, occupation and atrocities.
Japan “caused much harm to various countries, largely in Asia, through a reckless war,” the 38-page report said.
“Colonial rule became particularly harsh from the second half of the 1930s,” it said, referring to Japan’s imperial march across Asia.
“The responsibilities of the Japanese government and military leaders from the 1930s and beyond are very serious indeed.”
The 16-member panel made up of mostly academics and journalists also dispensed with claims from some on Japan’s right that it had liberated Asian nations from Western powers.
“It is inaccurate to claim that Japan fought to liberate Asia as a matter of national policy,” it said, calling for “reconciliation” with China and Korea.
In a landmark address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in April, Abe expressed his “deep remorse” over Japan’s actions towards neighboring Asian nations during World War II.
But he stopped short of a full apology demanded by Beijing and Seoul, especially over the forced recruitment of so-called “comfort women” to serve Japanese soldiers in military brothels.
A landmark 1995 statement by then premier Tomiichi Murayama stated his feelings of “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.”
The so-called Murayama Statement said Japan “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”