The government is moving to set up a panel of experts toward crafting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
While the government plans to highlight in the statement that Japan will actively contribute to global peace and stability, neighboring nations will likely be paying close attention to whether it will maintain the 1995 apology and remorse stated by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama over Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia.
Critics say Abe could feel uncomfortable about the Murayama statement because of his conservative historic perceptions, which were apparently influenced by his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, a wartime Cabinet member detained as a suspected Class-A war criminal after the war and who later became prime minister.
Abe said in a radio program shortly after the Dec. 14 general election that he hopes to include in his statement “remorse for the past war, the postwar progress and Japan’s future course.” A government source explained that the prime minister meant that the statement will include “positive content.”
The government is likely to select experts, possibly in March, to discuss the issue in line with Abe’s view.
On the 50th anniversary of the war’s end on Aug. 15, 1995, then-Prime Minister Murayama said in his statement that Japan had caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to the people of Asia and other countries through its colonial rule and aggression, and expressed “feelings of deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.”
The wording was also used in the 2005 statement released by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.
But Abe, after becoming prime minister in December 2012, told a Diet committee in April 2013 that he “does not necessarily follow the Murayama statement as it is.” He also said, “There is no clear definition of ‘aggression’ academically and internationally.”
But after that he has said he will follow the past statements — in principle.
Abe, however, did not mention Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia and feelings of remorse at ceremonies marking the anniversary of the nation’s surrender in World War II in 2013 and 2014, something Japanese prime ministers have done at the annual commemoration since 1994.
A senior official close to the government said Abe did not touch on those issues because the event was “a memorial service aimed at a domestic audience.”
As Japan’s perceptions on wartime history and war responsibility could trigger a backlash from China and South Korea, which both suffered from Japan’s military aggression, Abe may face difficult decisions in crafting the new statement.