Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be “future oriented” by including his administration’s “active stance” on international contributions.
But if the statement differs markedly from the historical perspective of previous administrations that expressed remorse and offered apologies for what happened in the war, it is likely to cause friction not only with China and South Korea, which have been highly critical of Abe’s nationalist stance, but also with the United States and European countries.
During a debate among party leaders on Dec. 1, prior to the Lower House snap election that took place Dec. 14, Abe said he wants the statement to include what Japan has learned from the war, what it has achieved in the postwar period, and how it will contribute to the region and the world.
He also indicated he is eager for the statement to reflect the “proactive pacifism” concept for his foreign and security policies. The administration will set up a study panel of experts as early as next month to draw up a draft of the statement, which will be issued on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.
One issue is how Abe will ensure consistency with the 1995 statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in which he offered deep remorse and heartfelt apologies for Japan’s past colonial rule and invasion, and the 2005 statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who followed Murayama’s stance.
Both China and South Korea have emphasized historical perspectives in their stances on Japan.
In December last year, the United States, in an unusual move, announced its disappointment over Abe’s visit to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. If the upcoming statement is viewed as revisionist, it will likely trigger a backlash from numerous countries.
Abe has repeated that he will continue the historical perspectives laid out by successive administrations. Other countries, however, view Abe with a wary eye, given his visit to Yasukuni, which enshrines several Class-A war criminals alongside the nation’s war dead, as well as his remarks in April that there has been no fixed definition of “invasion.”
Another cause of concern in many countries is his administration’s review of the process for drawing up the 1993 statement on “comfort women” — women forced into military brothels — issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.
Furthermore, the hawkish prime minister stirred up controversy when he refrained from mentioning Japan’s responsibility for its wartime aggression in speeches delivered at the past two national memorial services on Aug. 15. The responsibility had been acknowledged by all other prime ministers since Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said Abe will be well aware of sentiments from around the world when drawing up the statement. An aide to Abe meanwhile said the prime minister doesn’t want to cause any further diplomatic disputes.