Abe’s WWII statement speaks of regret but dodges details


Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday issued a much-awaited statement about World War II in which he spoke of “deep remorse” over Japan’s wartime misdeeds.

“Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its action during the war. . . . Such (a) position articulated by the previous Cabinets will remain unshakable into the future,” Abe said in the official English translation of the statement.

His choice of words was apparently aimed at calming critics because the closely observed text included four phrases used in earlier war apology statements: “heartfelt apology” and “deep remorse,” “colonial rule” and “aggression.”

With his support rate plummeting to below 40 percent for the first time since he returned as prime minister in December 2012, a Jiji Press poll has found, Abe was apparently trying to avoid rattling the administration with further political and diplomatic rows.

“We must never again repeat the devastation of war. Incident, aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of threat or use of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes,” the statement said.

“We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.”

He also said, “Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. . . . I myself find speechless and my heart rent with the utmost grief. How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?”

With the statement, Abe appeared to be aiming to overturn — or at least dilute — his reputation as a potentially dangerous leader who might challenge the postwar order.

“We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan ended up becoming a challenger to the international order,” he said.

A poll in August found Abe’s approval rate fall 0.4 percentage points from the previous month to 39.7 percent, while his disapproval rating rose 1.4 points to 40.9 percent.

During a news conference that coincided with the release of the statement, Abe expressed a wish to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“If there’s a chance, I want to take advantage of it,” he said. “My door is always open for dialogue,” he added.

Abe also indicated his statement was designed to put an end to diplomatic rows over Japan’s war apologies.

“Seventy years have passed after the end of the war. We should not leave our future generations, who have nothing to do with the war, caught up in a situation where you need to keep apologizing,” Abe said at the news conference.

“I thought that’s a duty for us, who are alive now,” Abe said. Until a few days ago, Abe kept people guessing as to whether he would use key phrases in the statement. Nations such as China and South Korea in particular were expected to scrutinize the text to ascertain the diplomatic stance of a leader widely regarded as a revisionist.

Meanwhile, Abe may draw criticism from some of his core nationalist supporters, who had urged him not to bow to repeated demands from Beijing and Seoul for another official apology for Japan’s wartime actions and its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Still, the statement, which was endorsed by the Cabinet earlier in the day, probably matches the sentiments of a majority of Japanese people.

An NHK poll on Aug. 7-9 found that 42 percent of 1,057 respondents wanted Abe to include an apology for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression. Only 15 percent opposed this.

Abe initially indicated he was disinclined to repeat the four phrases voiced by past Prime Ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi in statements issued on the 50th and 60th anniversaries respectively. Many right-leaning politicians are reluctant to describe Japan’s advance into China in the 1930s and ’40s as “aggression.”

They maintain there was no clear definition of “aggression” under international law at that time, and that Japan should not be singled out for condemnation since many Western powers had earlier invaded and colonized nations without drawing the same level of criticism. On Jan. 25, weeks after his party won a landslide victory in a Lower House election, Abe told NHK that he did not want to issue a statement that would spark “microscopic debates” over which phrases should and should not be included.

He also maintained that the statement, issued on the eve of Saturday’s anniversary of the end of the war, should be “future-oriented.”

Those remarks were widely seen as meaning Abe was reluctant to repeat the words of Murayama and Koizumi — and it caused a stir both at home and abroad.

In April last year, Abe told a Diet session that what is described as aggression “can be viewed differently” depending on which side the observer is on. Criticism followed, and Abe later said he upholds the Murayama statement “as a whole.”

He also drew strong protest from China and South Korea when he visited the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013.

But Abe otherwise has maintained a low profile in dealing with the two Asian rivals, and reportedly is trying to arrange a summit with Chinese leaders in Beijing as early as September.

On Aug. 6, an advisory panel to Abe published its report on Japan’s modern history and postwar reconciliation, strongly criticizing its wartime “aggression” against other Asian countries.

Of the 16-member panel, handpicked by Abe, two members raised opposition to use of the term “aggression,” but the panel as a whole endorsed it, according to Shinichi Kitaoka, the panel’s deputy head and president of the International University of Japan.

  • Ahojanen

    No redundancy in the text is necessary. You can refer to the Murayama statement for details if you want :)

    • Jonathan Fields

      I knew a guy in high school who was a huge bully. In his first year he was a total d-bag. He’d pick fights with everyone, punch random kids in the face, and steal lunch money. He did this for a long time and no one opposed him. One day, he got a little bit too big for his britches and picked a fight with an upperclassman. The upperclassman beat the hell out of the bully. He really went too far, if we’re being honest. But the bully was under control, so all the students were fine with it at the time.

      The next year when everyone came back to school, the bully was much better. He got along with everyone, and his performance in class even improved. We thought he had changed for good. He apologized for his past transgressions. He and the upperclassman actually became friends. Everything in the school was pretty good.

      Then in our third year, the former-bully started bad-mouthing the kids he had previously picked on. He began to deny ever having bullied anyone. When people called him out on this obvious lie, he’d say that those kids deserved it anyway. They were too fat and didn’t need their lunch money, or they were too uppity and needed to be taught a lesson. He further spun the stories so that he was the victim of the upperclassman who had beaten him so badly before. His story was so convincing that even the upperclassman believed it.

      Eventually, the bully’s former victims got sick of his BS and decided to call him on it. The bully maintained that because he had apologized before, all was OK. Besides, there were other kids who had cheated on tests and gotten in fights. Why weren’t they apologizing for that stuff? There was no need for further apologies in his mind.

      The former bully coasted on his second-year successes until graduation, but the damage he did to his image by talking so much trash and lying about his past was irreparable. Eventually, the lost all of his friends. He said it didn’t matter. He said he hated people anyway; that he didn’t need friends. Last I heard he was unmarried and working at his parents’ mattress store in Hoboken.

  • Revelation

    Did anyone seriously expect him to bend so far over in this “apology” as to satisfy all parties involved when he is the leader of Japan? Regardless of the truth, he is first and foremost to defend the pride of his nation, not unlike any other political leader. Although this statement is watered down, he satisfied the basic points the world wanted to see out of his statement. We know what his stances are; it was a waste of time to think this hawk would become a dove.

    • YashZion

      right on!
      i think at the end action always speak louder than words.

      taken from his statement above,
      “We must never again repeat the devastation of war.” <-- that is the "talk". now look back to his "action". On July 16, 2015, the Japanese Parliament approved of legislation which backed by Abe goverment and supported by the US under Obama's admin that, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, "empowers the military to fight in foreign conflicts." so just make it clear Abe said he doesn't want to see japan repeat the devastation of war, Obame won a nobel peace price, and both of their government successfully distroy 1947, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which said " the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." LOL

  • Ralph Mosenez

    Sounds like an apology to me.

    To be honest, I don’t think any country has to have an annual apology for its past transgressions. Does the UK have an annual apology to natives in N. America? Aborigines in Australia? Colonies around the world? Does France? Spain? How about an annual apology for slavery in the US? Shouldn’t there be some sort of apology for returning many countries to colonial rule after the war?

    Has China ever apologized to Korea for waging war against the ROK during the Korean war? Or its 60 year support for N. Korea? North Korea wouldn’t exist if the Chinese hadn’t waged war against the ROK. And that regime is responsible for mass torture, executions, gulags, destruction of cultural and historical objects, etc. How about an apology to Tibet for the oppression of the past?

    • AJ

      Other countries have things like Black History Month, Holocaust commemorations, and build memorials to their injustices whose essential message is “never again”.

      Nobody insists about slavery, the Holocaust, or total war that “We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even future generations to come, who have nothing to do with the war, be predestined to apologize” like Abe did.

      But other countries’ flaws are a red herring. The fact that they also have disgraces to apologize for is not a good excuse for Japan to barely acknowledge its own disgraces.

      • 99Pcent

        Waiting for apology from China on Tibet/

      • kiraja

        did native Hawaiians and native Americans get their apologies from the US military yet?

      • Bruce Chatwin

        Free Hawai’i!

    • wrle

      But that is different because Japan brutally controlled and colonized Korea for more than thirty years. It is not like China’s support for north korea during the korean war.

      • Ralph Mosenez

        Well China went to war with the ROK ……. destruction of infrastructure, destroying villages, killing many, wounding even more, forcing people to flee, etc.

        Plus, the regime in North Korea brutally controls the country, has destroyed cultural buildings and institutions, has thousands in gulags, uses torture as a routine punishment and has the death penalty for a variety of offences.

        This is all possible due to the support of China during the war and has continued for over 60 years (longer than Japan’s colonization) due to the same support.

  • NickDavisGB

    Teach Japanese children the truth about WWII.

  • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

    Abe is determined not to apologize. He has never admitted any WW2 wrongdoings committed by his government. In his mind, military invasion is not a sin, forcing innocent women into sex slavery is acceptable…

  • GIJ

    This is a sign that Abe WILL visit Yasukuni Shrine at some point on 15 August. Look for it on the news…

  • Kriton

    I would like to hear the leaders of former colonial powers, as well as the United States, apologize annually for their genocide of generations of native peoples. Could they themselves say, “Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. . . . I myself find speechless and my heart rent with the utmost grief. How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by our military?” Have any of the colonial powers ever apologized?

    • wind

      My Mum’s country Canada kinda sorta has apologised for sexually abusing and psychologically destroying generations of native children, my Dad’s country Belgium has never really apologised for crimes like hacking off the hands of Congolese children when failing to meet f&#king rubber quotas in forced labour. Human rights should be less about lecturing other countries than accounting for one’s own country’s evils against humanity.

  • 99Pcent

    Great apology, now lets hear the Chinese government apologize for killing almost two million innocent Tibetans and throwing an equal amount in jail for no reason at all.

  • J.P. Bunny

    The speech didn’t seem to contain any surprises, and consisted of enough to mollify most. The key phrases of apology and remorse were there to keep Japan’s neighbors somewhat content, but no specifics to set off the right wing whack jobs at home.

    Imperialism saved Japan from being colonized.
    We went down the wrong path to war.
    We were bad, caused suffering, colonized, and won’t do it again.
    The path we’ve been on for the past 70 years is the right one.
    We don’t see the need to apologize any more.

    I suppose “engraving the past on our hearts” is a good start, but writing it down in history books would be better.

  • YashZion

    wasn’t his government just recently trying to revise the
    constitution, particularly Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which
    not only forbids the use of force as a means to settling international
    disputes but also forbids Japan from maintaining an army, navy or air
    and wasn’t the US backed all attempt by just about every japanese governments trying to change the article 9?

    i mean, any one really believer all of this peace talk from politician of where ever they cam from at all? japan china US, are they any difference? nope!

  • wrle

    Doesn’t matter how many times the Japanese government apologizes. Until the historical distortions stop, it only undermines any previous apologies. An apology is a genuine gesture of remorse and the lack of sincerity is fostered by the constant denials by their politicians. This is why it upsets Japan’s neighbors. If Japan is truly sorry they would stop the whitewashing and face up to truth. They are asking for sincerity, not lip service.

  • Richard Solomon

    Space limitations here would not allow a comprehensive analysis of this speech. But I will make a few points.

    First, it contains many good elements and DOES use the terms aggression, remorse, etc contained in the 1995 apology. He rightly notes that Japan has made significant contributions to the welfare of its neighbors and to peace in Asia.

    Second, Abe repeatedly talks about ‘engraving’ the history and the need for peace, etc on the hearts of the Japanese people. This is a nice metaphor. But he does not go further to articulate specifics about how this should be done. Eg, teach Japanese children the whole truth about the militarists and their foolhardy, destructive plans.

    Third, Abe understandably notes that he does not want younger Japanese people to feel compelled to apologize for the misdeeds of their elders. But he says nothing about how this can be accomplished. He still does not understand, let alone endorse, plans for Japan to make amends for its past misdeeds. Nothing noted about paying reparations to victims, building memorials or museums to honor victims, holding memorial ceremonies with victims, etc. If Japan were to launch a coordinated campaign to engage in such acts of contrition over time, these would truly help the country reconcile with its neighbors. Then the younger generation would not need to apologize any longer because the true aspects of the War would be assimilated into the culture and its relations with its neighbors. Germany has accomplished this in the last 50 years or so. For the most part, it has achieved reconciliation with its former enemies in Europe and its former victims, for the most part.

    For apologies to be perceived as genuine by those receiving them these must be accompanied by actions that underscore them. Ie, it takes deeds as well as words for an apology to be effective. Japan has been lacking in the latter.

  • Chandrakant Kulkarni

    Our Jain brothers & sisters in India observe a beautiful religious tradition of ‘Michhami Dukkadam’ [more info & images available on Google] at the end of their Paryushana Parva.
    It will be indeed a great thing: ALL nations observe this religious tradition in divine Paryshana Parva!

  • timefox

    It was a great discourse . Again Abe prime minister is a great prime minister . Experience that has been insulted from China at the time of the first -order Abe Cabinet , probably him strongly . If you think so , it ‘s there in the sense also that event .

    Compared to this , the Japanese media and the newspaper ‘s lowest . Vulgar , feeling bad , ugly , it was synonymous with this kind words .