Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday downplayed apparent U.S. concern over an upcoming statement by the Abe administration to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, saying the Cabinet will maintain the historical views expressed by previous administrations.
Washington urged Tokyo on Monday to uphold past government apologies for Japan’s wars and its colonial rule in the 1930s and ’40s when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issues a new statement on the matter Aug. 15.
“The Abe Cabinet has kept saying it will uphold positions of the past Cabinets over history (issues), including the Murayama statement, as a whole,” Suga told a news conference, referring to a key apology issued in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.
Abe, too, said on Monday he would uphold past government statements. But like Suga, he said would maintain the government’s previous historical views “as a whole,” a phrase that could leave room for the administration to disagree on some details or deviate from the wording of past apologies while upholding the general outline of previous statements.
Asked if the government intends to partially revise its past apologies, Suga only repeated his comment word for word, adding that the government has yet to begin drafting the anniversary statement.
During a daily briefing in Washington on Monday, Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State, said: “Our view is that the apologies extended by previous Prime Minister Murayama and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono marked important chapters in Japan’s efforts to improve relations with its neighbors.”
The 1993 Kono statement marks the first time the Japanese government officially apologized to the so-called “comfort women” who were forced to work at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.
“As we’ve indicated many times, we encourage Japan to continue to work with its neighbors to resolve concerns over history in an amicable way through dialogue,” Psaki said.
War-linked historical issues have long strained Japan’s diplomatic relations with China and South Korea, two countries that will pay great attention to what Abe will say in the summer to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of both the war and of Japan’s colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.
During his first news conference this year in Ise, Mie Prefecture on Monday, Abe said he will express “remorse” for Japan’s wars in the 1930s and ’40s and uphold past government views on the wars, including the 1995 Murayama apology.
“The Abe Cabinet has upheld the positions of the past cabinets over history (issues), including the Murayama statement, as a whole. And (it ) will keep upholding them,” Abe said.
He also stressed that Japan has been “a pacifist state” for the past 70 years, protecting freedom, democracy and human rights as well as the rule of law, and that the planned statement should mention such aspects of Japan’s postwar history.