Members of an expert panel on the war anniversary statement to be issued this summer by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a heated debate about whether Japan committed wartime “aggression,” according to a summary of their discussion.
Minutes released Monday of the panel’s second meeting, held March 13, show sharp divisions among the 16 members over whether to use the word “aggression,” as did the statement issued 20 years ago by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama that included an apology for Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia.
The content of this year’s war anniversary statement is drawing close attention from China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan’s wartime brutality and see Abe as having revisionist historical views.
In the minutes, which did not for the most part identify speakers, one member proposed that the word “aggression” should be used, saying, “What Japan did to China in the past is nothing short of an act of aggression from an international viewpoint, both at that time and now.”
Another member echoed this view, citing the 1931 Manchurian Incident, in which Japanese military officers blew up a portion of a Japanese railroad in southern Manchuria and then blamed the attack on Chinese dissidents as a pretext for invading the region.
What Japan did can’t be called an act of “self-defense,” that member said.
But some members expressed caution about using the word “aggression,” with one questioning “whether it is appropriate to determine that the war was an act of aggression based on present values.”
Naoya Okuwaki, a professor at Meiji University Graduate School of Law, said the word is not clearly defined in international law. He was invited to the March 13 meeting as an outside expert.
At the outset of the meeting, Shinichi Kitaoka, the acting chief of the panel and president of International University of Japan, said the “reckless war” by Japan claimed the lives of many people, mainly in Asia.
The panel is expected to compile a report by July. Abe will then decide what to say in the statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August.