National / Politics

At summit, Abe expresses 'deep remorse' for WWII but stops short of apologizing

Kyodo, Reuters

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed the nation’s “deep remorse” over World War II on Wednesday, but he did not repeat a “heartfelt apology” to the Asian peoples affected by Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” during and before the war.

These phrases were part of a landmark statement Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued on Aug. 15, 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of the war’s end. They were also used by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the 2005 Asian-African Summit.

“Japan, with feelings of deep remorse over the past war, made a pledge to remain a nation always adhering to those very principles throughout, no matter what the circumstances,” Abe said in an address on the first day of a two-day summit of Asian and African leaders in Jakarta.

Abe’s comments made for an awkward diplomatic backdrop at a meeting later in the day with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the summit sidelines, the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the Asian rivals.

The 2015 Asian-African Summit is part of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, which affirmed the principles of “refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country” and the “settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means.”

“We should never allow to go unchecked the use of force by the mightier to twist the weaker around,” Abe said, apparently taking aim at China’s muscle-flexing to press its territorial claims in the East and South China seas. “The wisdom of our forefathers in Bandung was that the rule of law should protect the dignity of sovereign nations, be they large or small.”

Abe also pledged Japan’s assistance in the training of as many as 350,000 people in Asia and Africa over the next five years as part of efforts to ensure “quality growth” and eradicate poverty on the two continents.

“Japan’s resolve is to turn growth in Asia and Africa into an enduring, not ephemeral, event. With that resolve in mind, over the next five years, we are going to help as many as 350,000 people throughout the region acquire technology expertise and industrial knowledge,” Abe said.

Specifically, Japan plans to assist the promotion of the Japanese kosen polytechnic system in Asia and Africa, as well as the development of higher engineering education facilities in Egypt, India and Malaysia, for example, according to government officials.

“Hand in hand with the young and ambitious in Asia and Africa, we will foster them into a generation that will shoulder their countries’ industrial development,” Abe said. He stressed that Japan “stands behind the empowerment of women.”

Over the past 60 years, Japan has provided some $300 billion in official development assistance to promote economic development in Asia and Africa. Over that time, Tokyo has also dispatched about 140,000 experts to the two areas for human resources development.

The prime minister condemned “despicable terrorism” around the world.

“We must give no haven to terrorists anywhere in the world,” Abe said.

In January, two Japanese nationals were executed by Islamic State extremists.

As part of Japan’s efforts to boost growth in Asia, the country will host a summit in July with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, five ASEAN states situated along the Mekong River.

Leaders are expected at that summit to craft a new strategy for Tokyo to contribute to sustainable development of the Mekong region beyond 2015.

“I say to you that Asian and African nations are no longer Japan’s aid recipients,” Abe said. “They are Japan’s partners for growth.”

Similarly, Japan will hold an African development summit next year for the first time on that continent. The Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which Japan cosponsors with the United Nations, the World Bank and the African Union Commission, has taken place every five years in Japan since 1993.

“Whether we build up human capacities or infrastructure, all will be an investment into the future,” Abe said.