Statement adviser to Abe: Acknowledge Japan waged ‘war of aggression’


Staff Writer

A noted political and diplomatic scholar who has been widely considered a close adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a surprising stance.

Shinichi Kitaoka, president of International University of Japan and an expert on Japanese diplomatic and political history, wants Abe to acknowledge what the nationalist leader apparently does not want to clearly admit in public: that Japan fought “a war of aggression” against China in the 1930s and ’40s.

“Japan fought a war of aggression. It did really dreadful things. It’s clear,” Kitaoka told a symposium in Tokyo on Monday, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

“I want Mr. Abe to say, ‘Japan committed aggression (against China),” he was quoted as saying.

Kitaoka is the deputy chief of the 16-member panel advising Abe on his statement for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which is to be issued this summer.

The panel is expected to give Abe a report on what he should mention in the statement. However, the report will only be considered a “reference” for Abe’s use when drafting the statement.

Kitaoka was also a key member of another panel last year that recommended Abe reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack even when Japan itself is not. This is one reason he is considered a close Abe adviser.

At a news conference Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on Kitaoka’s statements, saying the administration will not comment on remarks by individual members of the advisory panel.

“We’d like to keep watching the discussions” at the panel, he said.

In April last year, Abe told the Diet he does not uphold all of the landmark apology issued by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 and argued that what is described as aggression “can be viewed differently” depending on which side one is on.

Abe also claimed that the definition of “aggression” has yet to be established either among academics or by the international community, causing an uproar at home and abroad.

In the face of heavy criticism, both Abe and Suga claimed the administration has never denied “the fact of aggression,” and said they uphold the Murayama statement “as a whole.”

Until Murayama, few of Japan’s top leaders had officially admitted that Japan waged wars of aggression, including one against China, in the 1930s and 1940s.

Some nationalistic politicians and citizens have claimed that Japan fought “wars of self-defense” rather than aggression. They are considered Abe’s most ardent supporters.

In his 1995 statement, Murayama straightforwardly admitted that Japan “caused tremendous damage and suffering” to people in many countries “through its colonial rule and aggression.”

Abe is widely viewed in the rest of Asia as a history revisionist, though he denies it. There is keen attention both at home and overseas on whether he will water down the apologetic tone of the Murayama statement during the war anniversary this summer by avoiding its key words and phrases, such as “colonial rule and aggression” and “deep remorse.”

  • kension86

    Just like how US war on Iraq was a “war of aggression”.

    • Richard Solomon

      Yes the war on Iraq WAS a war of aggression. It was also based on false claims that Iraq had WMD’s. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al were lying. And they knew that they were lying. They were, and still are, war criminals who should be tried for crimes against humanity.

    • John Davis

      It was – and still is.

  • Jud Mag

    Let me get this straight. Mukden happened because of self-defense?!? I will be most interested to read the official explanation in the summer.

    • Ron NJ

      Those train tracks weren’t going to blow themselves up, you know!

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    This reminds me of when I was teaching a university student one day, and he broached the subject of WWII. He said that China attacked Japan. I asked him “Where? Which part of Japan did they attack?” He replied “Not in Japan, but they attacked Japanese soldiers.” “Oh,” I replied, feigning ignorance, “then where were the Japanese soldiers they attacked?” “In China.” he answered. “And…what were they doing in China?” I asked, he started to answer but then stopped. I could almost hear the gears in his head churning over…”Oh.” was his final comment.

    • Gordon Graham

      Was that in America? I mean, a good deal of American kids don’t know the difference between China and Japan. Point being young people throughout the world don’t know much about history…”Oh” is a pretty common comment among the young.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        No, much to your disappointment I’m sure, it was here in Japan.

      • Gordon Graham

        I see…So the young here, immersed in innui and the tedium of the modern world are as disinterested and bored as the youth anywhere else in the world…Yes, that is a bit disappointing. In another 20 years, I doubt you’ll even get an “Oh”

  • Gordon Graham

    Sound advice. Make up with your neighbours…Humility shouldn’t be viewed as a weakness

  • J.P. Bunny

    Makes good sense. There is nothing wrong with admitting that “the Japan of our fathers and grandfathers committed all kinds of atrocities, which we truly apologize for. But, this is now not that Japan, and we do not intend to be that Japan ever again.” Never hurts to make nice with the neighbors.

  • 151E

    To be fair, there is some truth in what Abe says, in that Japan sought to rapidly industrialize and join the club of empires rather than suffer the fate of the Qing dynasty or become just another Western colony. Although Japan brought immense suffering upon much of Asia, the United States, and ultimately itself, it all began as a rational defensive response to the realities of the day. Of course, from the perspective of those countries which Japan attacked and occupied, it was clearly a war of aggression. But put yourself in the waraji of early Meiji Japanese and things might begin to look a little different. This does not excuse the Japanese their brutal conduct in the war, but the dispassionate observer should be able to acknowledge some ambiguity in the situation.