Ja­pan should stop apol­o­giz­ing over war: poll


Ja­pan should stop apol­o­giz­ing for its war record, ac­cord­ing to a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers sur­veyed in a poll pub­lished Wed­nes­day.

But they were more di­vided about a World War II an­niver­sary speech by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe that drew crit­i­cism from China and South Korea.

On the eve of the 70th an­niver­sary of the war’s end, Ja­pan’s na­tion­al­ist premier ex­pressed deep re­morse over the war and said pre­vi­ous apolo­gies would stand.

How­ever, fu­ture gen­er­a­tions should not be “pre-des­tined” to say sorry for Tokyo’s wartime record, he added on Fri­day.

The poll pub­lished by Yomi­uri news­pa­per found 63 per­cent of those sur­veyed agreed that Ja­pan should re­frain from say­ing sorry in fu­ture, while 27 per­cent said it should con­tinue.

More than two-thirds sup­ported Abe’s vow to up­hold pre­vi­ous na­tional apolo­gies, how­ever.

Ja­pan’s neigh­bors hit out at the closely watched state­ment by Abe, the grand­son of a wartime cab­i­net min­is­ter, say­ing he failed prop­erly to atone for Tokyo’s past ag­gres­sion.

Vot­ers were di­vided over the speech, ac­cord­ing to the week­end poll of 1,761 house­holds, which found 48 per­cent had a fa­vor­able view of Abe’s re­marks against 34 per­cent who did not.

Al­lies in­clud­ing the United States and the United King­dom ap­plauded Abe’s com­ments, and his plung­ing pop­u­lar­ity ap­peared to get a boost, ris­ing two per­cent­age points to 45 per­cent.

How­ever Abe’s speech was crit­i­cized for only in­di­rectly echo­ing his pre­de­ces­sors’ con­tri­tion over Ja­pan’s im­pe­rial march across Asia in the 20th cen­tury.

And in a pos­si­ble jab at the con­ser­va­tive leader, Em­peror Ak­i­hito on Satur­day said that he felt “pro­found re­morse” over World War II — a con­flict fought in the name of his fa­ther Hiro­hito.

‘Un­com­fort­able po­si­tion’

Ja­pan’s wartime history has come un­der the spotlight since Abe swept to power in late 2012, and there was much spec­u­la­tion on whether he would fol­low a land­mark 1995 state­ment by then-premier Tomi­ichi Mu­rayama.

That state­ment, which be­came a bench­mark for sub­se­quent apolo­gies, ex­pressed “deep re­morse” and a “heart­felt apol­ogy” for the “tremen­dous dam­age” in­flicted.

Hawk­ish Abe has also faced do­mes­tic op­po­si­tion over se­cu­rity bills that would al­low Ja­panese troops to en­gage in com­bat — to de­fend an ally which comes un­der at­tack — for the first time since the war.

“Mr. Abe said the right thing

to a do­mes­tic au­di­ence,” said Stephen Nagy, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Tokyo’s In­ter­na­tional Chris­tian Univer­sity.

“It is not sur­pris­ing that sec­on­dand third-gen­er­a­tion (Ja­panese) don’t feel obliged to apol­o­gize,” he added, point­ing to the coun­try’s post-war paci­fism and multi-bil­lion-dol­lar for­eign aid pro­grams.

An­a­lysts have said Abe’s re­marks were un­likely to sig­nif­i­cantly dam­age — or im­prove — re­la­tions with neigh­bors.

His speech made di­rect ref­er­ence to the suf­fer­ing of Chi­nese peo­ple at the hands of Ja­panese sol­diers, and in­di­rectly ref­er­enced so-called com­fort women whom his­to­ri­ans say were forced to work in Ja­panese mil­i­tary broth­els.

Nagy added that “re­la­tions with South Korea could have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally” had Abe made a clearer state­ment on the vic­tims of mil­i­tary broth­els.

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