Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday reaffirmed that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upholds the position set out by the 1995 apology issued by then-Prime Minister Tomiichii Murayama, which admits that Japan waged wars of aggression.

“Prime Minister Abe’s comment yesterday is no different from his previous position,” Suga said, a day after Abe nimbly avoided clarifying his opinion on whether Japan waged wars of aggression or forced the annexation of the Korean Peninsula, during a debate among the party leaders in Tokyo.

Abe responded that the interpretation of history should be left to historians and that he is not in position to cast judgment.

“As the prime minister said yesterday (Wednesday), the Abe administration has never denied the facts that Japan waged wars of aggression or colonized neighboring countries,” Suga told a news conference Thursday, referring to the Cabinet.

At Wednesday’s discussion, Abe was asked if it is a responsibility for politicians to cast judgment on this issue, as was done in 1985 by then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. Abe said Nakasone never made such a comment.

Yet Nakasone did. In 1985, Nakasone said during a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee that Japan waged a war of aggression against China, but not against the United States or the United Kingdom.

Suga backed Abe’s position that historical issues should not develop into political issues or strain diplomatic ties, but he repeated the leader’s intention to issue a forward-looking statement on the historical issue when the timing is right.

Abe’s rhetorical dancing on historical issues is plaguing his government, which has seen its high approval ratings dip from January to around 60 percent. In April, he told the Diet that he doesn’t uphold all of the Murayama statement and claimed that the definition of aggression “can be viewed differently,” depending on which side one is on.

Abe has also stated his intention to revisit the 1993 Kono Statement, which admitted the Japanese government played a role in forcing thousands of females into sexual servitude at wartime brothels set up by the military.

His comments caused an uproar in China and South Korea, where sentiment toward Japan has plunged over territorial disputes and strained bilateral ties.

Washington also voiced concern about Abe’s take of history.

To defuse the tension, Suga in May reaffirmed that the revisionist Abe administration inherited the Murayama Statement upon taking office, just as past administrations did.

Seoul irked by stance


South Korea voiced disappointment Thursday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks that whether Japan invaded its neighbors in the past should be left to historians to judge.

“We find it deeply regrettable and disappointing the highest leader of the Japanese government holds such an easygoing perception of history,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued in response to remarks Abe made Wednesday during a debate with other party leaders a day before official campaigning commenced for the July 21 House of Councilors election.

At the debate, Abe said he is not in a position to define “invasion” or “aggression” because doing so could cause political and diplomatic problems.

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