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Panel named to advise Abe on WWII statement

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The government will set up a 16-member advisory panel to consider what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should say in his planned statement marking 70 years since the end of World War II.

Announcing the panel Thursday, the government said it would include Taizo Nishimuro, president and CEO of Japan Post Holdings Co., and Shinichi Kitaoka, president of International University of Japan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the panel’s report, to be submitted to Abe by the summer, will serve only as a “reference” for the government as it drafts Abe’s statement.

Kitaoka was a key member of a government advisory panel that recommended last year that Abe reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to enable the right of collective self-defense.

The panel also includes Takao Yamada, senior staff writer at liberal daily Mainichi Shimbun, and Keiko Iizuka, the U.S. bureau chief of conservative daily Yomiuri Shimbun.

Other members include Masayuki Yamauchi, a professor at Meiji University and a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs, Yukio Okamoto, a former Foreign Ministry official, and Masashi Nishihara, president of the Research Institute for Peace and Security.

Suga reiterated the Cabinet will, in Abe’s statement, endorse the views expressed by previous administrations “as a whole.”

Suga said Abe will express the nation’s “remorse” for its actions in the 1930s and 40s. He will describe Japan’s postwar path as that of a peace-loving nation. And he will set out its intention to bring further benefits to the Asia-Pacific and the world.

Abe is widely viewed in the region as a revisionist. There is keen attention both at home and overseas on the wording he chooses to use, and whether he may soften or even replace the apologetic tone of past administrations about matters relating to Japan’s actions before and during World War II.

Media reports said Nishimuro will chair the panel and Kitaoka will be deputy head. But speaking at the news conference on Thursday, Suga declined to give details. He said merely that the panel’s members will make a range of decisions when they meet for the first time on Wednesday.