Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso on Friday ruled out stepping down as a Cabinet member or lawmaker for citing Nazi Germany as an example for revising the pacifist Constitution.
Brushing aside calls from some opposition Diet members, Aso said he has “no intention to resign.” He retracted the comment Thursday after it triggered criticism both at home and abroad.
Aso, who was prime minister from 2007 to 2008, said he believes it is now understood internationally that he did not intend to justify the Nazi regime.
But while reiterating that he considers it “regrettable” that the comment caused misunderstanding, he said he will not apologize.
Aso said in a speech Monday in Tokyo that “Germany’s Weimar Constitution was changed before anyone knew. It was changed before anyone else noticed. Why don’t we learn from that method?” He made mention of the Nazis’ “techniques.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, lashed out at Aso’s comment earlier this week. “What ‘techniques’ from the Nazis’ governance are worth learning — how to stealthily cripple democracy?” an official asked in a statement.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said at a news conference Tuesday it was “obvious” that Aso’s remark “hurt” many people, urging him to consider the sentiments of people in neighboring nations that “suffered damage” from Japanese invasions.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a news conference Friday that he will “make efforts to prevent (Aso’s comment) from becoming a diplomatic or political issue.”
At home, the Democratic Party of Japan said it will press for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take responsibility for appointing Aso as a Cabinet member.
“We need to know Aso’s true intention with his comments,” said Jin Matsubara, acting chairman of the DPJ’s Diet affairs committee, after he met with his counterparts of other opposition parties. Matsubara said the opposition might request a special session regarding this matter after the Diet session is closed, if a budget committee session is not held.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier in the day that Aso’s remark was “misunderstood” and that there was “no room” for discussion of it.
“It is not something that can be deliberated in the Diet,” Suga said.
NYT fears tilt to the right
Recent remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso suggesting Japan learn from the way the Nazis rewrote the German constitution could increase concerns among neighboring countries that Japan is tilting toward the right, The New York Times said Thursday.
The comments, made in a speech Monday, come at a time when “there has been intense attention” on where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “who has long been a leading figure on Japan’s far right, might lead his long-rudderless nation after his governing Liberal Democratic Party’s decisive victory in (the Upper House election) last month,” the major U.S. daily said in its online edition.
Faced with strong criticism particularly from South Korea and China, Aso said he had never meant to praise the Nazis, and retracted the remarks Thursday.
“Still, the uproar over the comments by Mr. Aso, an outspoken nationalist who is also known for slips of the tongue, seemed to confirm the fears of some Japanese and other Asians that members of Mr. Abe’s government want to revise current views of World War II to present Imperial Japan, an ally of Nazi Germany, in a more positive light,” the paper noted.
The uproar highlighted “how emotions over events more than 70 years ago remain potent enough to damage Mr. Abe politically and hurt ties with not only Asian neighbors but also, potentially, the United States,” it pointed out.
The paper quoted analysts as saying that the question is “whether Mr. Abe and members of his government, who have spoken of restoring not only Japan’s economy but also its pride, can keep adhering to the politically successful moderate line.”