Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he wants to reflect his government’s position in a statement to be released in August on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, signaling that the wording of a 1995 statement — which offered apologies for Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia — could be changed.
“Rather than whether to use the wording we have repeated, I want to issue (a statement) in light of how the Abe government considers the matter,” he said on a TV program aired Sunday morning.
Asian countries as well as the United States are closely watching for whether the new statement will stick to a 1995 statement issued by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.
On the TV program, Abe said that he plans to uphold the general content of statements made by previous Japanese prime ministers. He said the upcoming statement will include three main points — an expression of remorse for Japan’s wartime aggression, comments on the democratic path taken by the country over the last 70 years, and the government’s plans for the future, including measures to improve regional and global prosperity.
On Aug. 15, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the war, Murayama said the country had caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to the people of Asia and other countries through its colonial rule and aggression.
Abe appeared reticent about using the same wording that appeared in the Murayama statement, saying he wanted to avoid “bits and pieces of argument over whether the previous wording was used or new wording was added.”
His latest remarks on the sensitive issue drew criticism from many opposition leaders.
Appearing on the same program, Katsuya Okada, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, blasted Abe’s approach.
“I cannot tolerate the prime minister’s remarks calling (Japan’s) colonial rule and aggression ‘bits and pieces,’ ” Okada said, adding that the 1995 statement has received international recognition.
Kenji Eda, leader of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), warned Abe against altering the wording of the Murayama statement, saying doing so would “send a different message to neighboring countries.”
Japanese Communist Party chairman Kazuo Shii urged Abe to retain key aspects of the 1995 statement and take appropriate action.
Tomotada Yoshida, head of the Social Democratic Party — the predecessor of which Murayama belonged to — said the Abe government “must retain the basic tone of the Murayama statement and clearly express remorse for Japan’s colonial rule and wartime aggression.”
Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the junior Komeito party in Abe’s LDP-led coalition, said that the form of expression used in the Murayama statement had significant meaning.
The new statement must respect it and be able to send a similar message, Yamaguchi said.
Takeo Hiranuma, leader of Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), noted that although it is important to feel remorse for past aggression, it is better not to touch on the matter in the new statement.