The following is a chronology of key comments made by Japanese leaders on the country’s war responsibility.
Sept. 6, 1984 — Emperor Hirohito (Showa), at a banquet for visiting South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, says, “It is indeed regrettable that there was an unfortunate past between us for a period in this century and I believe that it should not be repeated again.”
May 24, 1990 — Emperor Akihito, at a banquet for visiting South Korean President Roh Tae-woo, says, “I think of the sufferings your people underwent during this unfortunate period, which were caused by my country, and cannot but feel the deepest regret.”
Jan. 16, 1992 — Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, at a banquet hosted by South Korean President Roh Tae-woo in Seoul, says, “Essential to mutual understanding is that we Japanese first and foremost recall the truth of that tragic period when Japanese actions inflicted suffering and sorrow upon your people. . . . As prime minister of Japan, I would like to declare again my remorse at these deeds and tender my apologies to the people of the Republic of Korea.”
Aug. 4, 1993 — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, in a statement on the issue of “comfort women,” who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, says their recruitment, transfer, control “severely injured the honor and dignity of many women” and the Japanese government “would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”
Aug. 23, 1993 — Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, in a policy speech at the Diet, says he would like to take the opportunity to “express again our profound remorse and apologies for the fact that past Japanese actions, including aggression and colonial rule, caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people.”
June 9, 1995 — The House of Representatives, in a “no-war” resolution adopted to commemorate the end of World War II, says, “Solemnly reflecting upon many instances of colonial rule and acts of aggression in the modern history of the world, and recognizing that Japan carried out those acts in the past, inflicting pain and suffering upon the peoples of other countries, especially in Asia, the members of this House express a sense of deep remorse.”
Aug. 15, 1995 — Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in a statement on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, says, “Japan . . . through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations,” expressing “feelings of deep remorse” and stating “my heartfelt apologies.”
June 23, 1996 — Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, at a joint news conference after summit talks with South Korean President Kim Young Sam on the South Korean resort island of Cheju, says, “I believe there has been nothing worse than this ‘comfort women’ issue in hurting women’s honor and dignity. I would like to express my heartfelt apologies and remorse.”
Oct. 8, 1998 — In a joint declaration signed after summit talks between Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, Obuchi says, “Japan humbly admits the fact that it inflicted great damage and suffering on the people of the Republic of Korea through its colonial rule, and offers its deep remorse and heartfelt apologies.”
Aug. 15, 2005 — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, in a statement on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII, says, “In the past, Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. Sincerely facing these facts of history, I once again express my feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apologies.”
Aug. 10, 2010 — Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in a statement released ahead of the Aug. 29 centenary of Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula, says Japan again expresses its feelings of “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apologies” for “the tremendous damage and suffering” brought about by its colonial rule.
Aug. 14, 2015 — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a statement on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, says, “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war,” adding such positions “articulated by the previous Cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.”