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At summit, Abe expresses ‘deep remorse’ for WWII but stops short of apologizing

Kyodo, Reuters

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed the nation’s “deep remorse” over World War II on Wednesday, but he did not repeat a “heartfelt apology” to the Asian peoples affected by Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” during and before the war.

These phrases were part of a landmark statement Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued on Aug. 15, 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of the war’s end. They were also used by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the 2005 Asian-African Summit.

“Japan, with feelings of deep remorse over the past war, made a pledge to remain a nation always adhering to those very principles throughout, no matter what the circumstances,” Abe said in an address on the first day of a two-day summit of Asian and African leaders in Jakarta.

Abe’s comments made for an awkward diplomatic backdrop at a meeting later in the day with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the summit sidelines, the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the Asian rivals.

The 2015 Asian-African Summit is part of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, which affirmed the principles of “refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country” and the “settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means.”

“We should never allow to go unchecked the use of force by the mightier to twist the weaker around,” Abe said, apparently taking aim at China’s muscle-flexing to press its territorial claims in the East and South China seas. “The wisdom of our forefathers in Bandung was that the rule of law should protect the dignity of sovereign nations, be they large or small.”

Abe also pledged Japan’s assistance in the training of as many as 350,000 people in Asia and Africa over the next five years as part of efforts to ensure “quality growth” and eradicate poverty on the two continents.

“Japan’s resolve is to turn growth in Asia and Africa into an enduring, not ephemeral, event. With that resolve in mind, over the next five years, we are going to help as many as 350,000 people throughout the region acquire technology expertise and industrial knowledge,” Abe said.

Specifically, Japan plans to assist the promotion of the Japanese kosen polytechnic system in Asia and Africa, as well as the development of higher engineering education facilities in Egypt, India and Malaysia, for example, according to government officials.

“Hand in hand with the young and ambitious in Asia and Africa, we will foster them into a generation that will shoulder their countries’ industrial development,” Abe said. He stressed that Japan “stands behind the empowerment of women.”

Over the past 60 years, Japan has provided some $300 billion in official development assistance to promote economic development in Asia and Africa. Over that time, Tokyo has also dispatched about 140,000 experts to the two areas for human resources development.

The prime minister condemned “despicable terrorism” around the world.

“We must give no haven to terrorists anywhere in the world,” Abe said.

In January, two Japanese nationals were executed by Islamic State extremists.

As part of Japan’s efforts to boost growth in Asia, the country will host a summit in July with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, five ASEAN states situated along the Mekong River.

Leaders are expected at that summit to craft a new strategy for Tokyo to contribute to sustainable development of the Mekong region beyond 2015.

“I say to you that Asian and African nations are no longer Japan’s aid recipients,” Abe said. “They are Japan’s partners for growth.”

Similarly, Japan will hold an African development summit next year for the first time on that continent. The Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which Japan cosponsors with the United Nations, the World Bank and the African Union Commission, has taken place every five years in Japan since 1993.

“Whether we build up human capacities or infrastructure, all will be an investment into the future,” Abe said.

  • Ron NJ

    Typically vague rhetoric from the powers that be in Japan that could be read as supportive of either side. Much like Akihito’s profoundly vague and non-committal address statements this year, Abe’s remarks are no surprise at all.
    “Japan, with feelings of deep remorse over the past war” might as well mean “Sorry we lost the war” for all we know of Abe and his ilk.

    • Brian Ryskind

      I’m far more likely to believe the Imperial family than Abe with regards to this kinda stuff, considering how they don’t visit Yasukuni or really condone it.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Where are the meaningful words? What words does this man mean?

  • Brian Ryskind

    Funny that Japan – a country where the business and culture is packed to the brim with pointless ceremony and formalities – would make this claim. So honoring the war criminals for their service to Japan is an unskippable ceremony but slipping in a simple “our bad” is the straw that breaks the camels back.

  • boonteetan

    Deep remorse for WWII is one thing, denying massacres in China is an entirely different thing. Do not expect Xi to change his perception of history twisting Abe overnight. The scar is too deep.

  • Anno2

    To be honest, the very fact that on every occasion, Japanese politicians put on a gold scale every word they say about the second world war means only one thing – there is no sincerity to any of them. All statements of regret and apology from Japanese leadership are nothing but theater and political calculus.

    You may wish to compare Japan’s convoluted dances with how Germany goes about the same topic. Its sincerity is not being disputed, and that may have something to do with nobody there calculating what is the bare minimum they can say to be both expressing regrets and not to upset nationalists. In fact, not upsetting nationalists is just not a priority in there. They were the ones starting the war – not entitled to “hurt feelings”.

    Anno Hermanns

  • kingyama

    how good would it be if japan would apologize for its past mistakes and crimes in a formal way… the wounds and scar made by japan towards korea and china is too deep and the japanese have to know this…..but it isn’t that korea and china won’t forgive japan..japan should stop the shrine issues,the comfort women issues and stop disputing the number of innocent people it killed…japan must be strong enough to ask for apology and korea and china must be even stronger to apologize japan!! a formal deep felt apology!!!

  • 1234

    It’s time for us to forgive now. My fellow Koreans and angry Chinese are never forgiving. I mean, I think they don’t even know the word ‘forgiveness’ for sure. Really. I lived here for 16 years, I was born here, went to school. We teach Japanese = War criminals, Japan = Dokdo invaders. There’s not a single pleasant thing in our history book about Japan. How can there be any change to Korea-Japan relations if this is the case? I truly understand the rightists movement in Japan, Koreans fussed too much about the colonial thing for the last 70 years, something that has been apologised for more than tens of times including King Hirohito and Akihito and compensated for the last fifty decades.

    You go to the US or Western European nations, they emphasise peace, love, forgiving, integration, no racism and all the good stuffs. In Korea we never do. The Vietnamese President or whatever you call it, Tran Duc Luong, accepted Korean President’s apology on Korean atrocities during Vietnam War, and said the two nation should move foward to build a prosperous ~. Why not Korea do the same? Some rightists in Korea are even saying that it’s Vietnam that should apologise to Korea, not us.

    David Cameron said “I don’t think the right thing is to reach back into history and seek out things you should apologise for. I think the right thing is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened.”

    If the colonial generation were still alive I would not say ‘we should forgive’ But they are all dead now, we didn’t go thru all this Japanese Imperialism, why are we stuck on the stupid 70-100 years ago history that has no benefit or whatsoever? Probably, the politicians are propagating anti-Japanese(and in Japan anti-Korean) sentiment to integrate people(nationalism), and to let people focus on this sentiment to get away with their political failures so that the supporting rate doesn’t go down. Park Geun-hye, in particular is using anti-Jap sent. for sure. She hasn’t done anything good in her country. All she do is tattling on “comfort women” in international conferences. What a shame.

  • arif

    For the leaders of the world. I want to know. What do you think about

    the biggest issue of the history about the persecution of HUMAN CRIME

    in china like FALUN GONG, Genocide, ilegal labour, organ harvesting

    etc. The number of VICTIMS already MILLIONS.Since 1999. It has been 15

    years. And its still happening right now.

  • Rebane

    I wonder in which language he delivered his speech: Japanese or English? Can anyone refer to the full text of his speech on the Web?

  • Kaverin

    You don’t see the US president or government shifting left and right every few years trying to deny the past mistreatment of Native Americans and African Americans. If you were Native American or African American, and if something like that happened every few years, you would be outraged and call for impeachment, because even sincere past apologies and remedies can easily be undone by current statements and actions which contradict it. That is why even though former prime minsiters Murayama and Kono sincerely apologized for Japan’s WW2 atrocities, Abe’s (and Koizumi’s) subsequent words and actions can nullify those apologies, destroy that progress and bring the situation back 20 years.

    A horse that can take back its apologies and deny its wrongdoing is not dead, not even close.

    If the German chancellor said and did what Abe has done, he would have already been impeached and maybe even incarcerated. Of course, there exists no such shrine or museum in Germany that glorifies Nazis, because in Germany it’s illegal to deny or glorify the Holocaust.

    In Japan, the citizens re-elected Abe, rewarding him. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, the denial of Japan’s war crimes runs very deep and systematically through Japanese society and government.

    There are of course many Japanese people who are aware of and fully accept Japan’s responsibility for WW2 war crimes and atrocities (such as the famous writer Haruki Murakami who recently spoke out), but there are just as many (or more) who are unaware or indifferent to it, due to intentional miseducation of its citizens and historical revisionism conducted by the Japanese government over the years.