National / History

All eyes on Abe as WWII statement looms; wording to be key focus

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to issue a statement on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, with Asian neighbors closely watching whether he will apologize over Japan’s wartime actions.

Government sources have said Abe plans to include the words “apology” and “aggression” in his statement, which is to be approved at an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at 5 p.m. Roughly an hour later, Abe will hold a news conference where he is expected to read out the statement.

The statement is being closely watched as countries that suffered from Japan’s past militarism are concerned Abe may water down previous Japanese government apologies, notably a 1995 landmark statement issued by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th WWII anniversary.

China and South Korea, in particular, perceive that Japan has not sufficiently atoned for its past atrocities.

A focal point in the new statement is how it will address the issue of apologizing for Japan’s aggression in Asia before and during the war. Abe is likely to refer to Murayama’s apology, rather than making a fresh apology himself, according to the sources.

Meanwhile, he is expected to highlight Japan’s postwar path as a peace-loving nation and its resolve to continue carrying out a constructive role in the international community.

Abe has said he wants to make the statement a forward-looking one and that his Cabinet upholds the historical perception of past Japanese governments “in its entirety.”

Abe’s new statement is expected to reflect a report presented last week by an advisory panel, referring to Japan’s “aggression” in China before and during WWII and its 1910-1945 “colonial rule” of the Korean Peninsula, the sources said.

An English version of the statement will be released at the same time. The government is also considering releasing the Chinese and Korean translations of the statement later, the sources said.

In the 1995 statement, Murayama said Japan, “following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war … and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”

The statement goes on to say, “In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology.”

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also released a statement in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945. The statement contained similar key phrases such as “aggression,” “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.”

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