TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II hit the headlines Tuesday as it reportedly may include the keywords of “aggression” and “apology” that Japan’s closest neighbors – China and South Korea – have been paying close attention to.
Japan’s Kyodo News said that Abe is “making final adjustments as to whether he will express a fresh apology.” The agency quoted government officials as saying the Abe Statement will be longer than the 1995 landmark Murayama Statement since Abe is mulling the details of historical events that led to past wars it waged.
The move “is aimed at reflecting on why Japan failed to prevent itself from going to war,” Kyodo cited one of the officials as claiming.
The historical details, however, may be narrated in a way that echoes the prime minister’s historical revisionist idea that Japan was forced to launch a “war of self-defense” instead of ” aggression” in the past, in efforts to satisfy the right-wing forces behind him.
Abe himself has reiterated that he will uphold the Murayama Statement as a whole but will not repeat the key wordings of ” aggression and colonial rule” and “heartfelt apology” in his speech.
“It will be a great problem for Abe to say these words because he, from his bottom of heart, does not believe them,” said Takeo Sato, a professor at Takushoku University, told a press conference on Monday.
“If he just wants to say it to get over the hump of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, it will be a bad situation as everyone would think it is artificial,” said the professor, adding that it will be “very problematic” for Abe to mention the keywords in a correct way.
Former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama has urged Abe to apologize for Japan’s wartime barbarities in his speech, so as to mend frayed ties with China and South Korea by dispelling their anxieties and suspicions over current historical revisionism in Japanese politics.
The landmark Murayama Statement gained world recognition because the then Japanese premier clearly stated in his 1995 statement that he felt deep remorse and offered a heartfelt apology for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi repeated such expressions in his statement in 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
“Murayama expressed remorse and apologies for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression. Abe may revise it by keeping the words but by breaking the logic,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at the Sophia University, referring to a story on the issue by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK Monday.
The professor said on his Twitter Monday that the context is important to judge whether or not the prime minister follows the previous governments’ statements.
Japan’s two closest neighbors, China and South Korea, urged Abe to face up to its wartime past and clearly uphold statements issued by previous governments.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that she hopes “the Japanese government clarifies that it is upholding the historical perception of past governments and shows a mature attitude to newly start relations with neighboring countries.”
“China and other Asian countries as well as the world are watching the Japanese leader’s upcoming speech closely,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday, urging Japan to “send a clear and correct message on the nature of the war and Japan’s wartime responsibility.”