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.