OITA – Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama is urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to uphold Japan’s apology for its wartime aggression against Asian neighbors. He said to omit this from an upcoming statement reflecting on 70 years since the end of World War II would generate “skepticism” toward Japan.
Informed sources have said Abe is reluctant to include the word “apology” in his statement this week ahead of the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of the war in 1945.
Japan’s “aggression is a historical fact,” Murayama said in an interview Friday. “It is natural to apologize if you did something wrong. Without words of apology, neighboring countries would harbor skepticism again.”
As prime minister, Murayama issued an apology in 1995 on the 50th anniversary. This was upheld by subsequent leaders.
China and South Korea will study Abe’s choice of words closely. They share the perception that Japan has not done enough to atone for its atrocities before and during the war.
Murayama issued his statement at a time when Japan had not acknowledged its responsibility for the war and a sense of distrust had been spreading among Asian countries.
His statement — which included the phrase “heartfelt apology” — was welcomed by China, South Korea and other countries.
It “played an important role in solving historical problems with other Asian countries,” he said.
Japan “had to become a trusted country by settling the past,” Murayama said, adding there had been strong opposition to his move from within the ruling camp.
Abe’s statement comes as Japan is undertaking a revamp of its defense policy. Security bills currently in the Diet would lift a ban on engaging in collective self-defense, or defending allies under armed attack even when Japan itself is not under attack. Opponents of the legislation say it could erode the nation’s pacifist posture.
Murayama said Abe is too focused on what some people say is the threat from Chinese military expansion.
“What is important is to build a relationship of trust through various diplomatic channels and to create an environment in which we can resolve friction through dialogue,” Murayama said.