Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked an advisory panel on Wednesday to discuss five topics in preparation for a planned statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, including what Japan has learned from its experiences in the previous century and what contributions Japan should make to Asia and the world.
The panel, consisting of 16 members drawn from academia and the business world, held its first meeting on the same day. Taizo Nishimuro, former Toshiba Corp. president and current president and CEO of Japan Post Holdings Co., was chosen as chairman and Shinichi Kitaoka, president of International University of Japan, was named deputy chief.
During the meeting, Abe presented to the members the five topics to discuss by summer. The other three topics are: how Japan’s path after the end of the war should be viewed; how Japan has reconciled with the United States, European countries and Australia, as well as Asian countries including China and South Korea; and what specific measures Japan should take this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end.
Abe is widely viewed in the region as a historical revisionist. Observers at home and abroad are keenly watching to see what wording he will choose to use in the statement, and whether he will soften or even replace the apologetic tone of past administrations about matters relating to Japan’s actions before and during World War II.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, in 1995 then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued an epoch-making statement to apologize for Japan’s wartime aggression and colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Abe has repeatedly said he will uphold Murayama’s statement “as a whole,” but also indicated he might not use some words included in the Murayama statement.
Whether Abe will avoid some of the key phrases in Murayama’s statement, such as Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” and the “deep remorse” over Japan’s wartime nationalism, has been a focus of public attention.
During a press briefing after the meeting, both Nishimuro and Kitaoka avoided commenting on what specific words should be included in Abe’s statement.
Kitaoka said he does not believe the panel is tasked to make any specific proposals on what words or topics should be written in Abe’s planned statement.
He also said the panel will have sessions “several times” by summer, adding it will be more than three times but less than 10 times. That may not leave much time for the 16 panel members to discuss in detail what should be written in Abe’s statement.
Government officials have said a final report from the panel, to be drawn up by summer, will only serve as a “reference” for Abe and it is the prime minister who must decide on the final wordings of the statement.
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