WASHINGTON – The White House welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement Friday expressing remorse over the country’s wartime actions, but influential U.S. news outlets criticized Abe for failing to apologize in his own words.
“We welcome Prime Minister Abe’s expression of deep remorse for the suffering caused by Japan during the World War II era,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said, referring to the statement Abe released Friday marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the war.
Price commended Abe for “his commitment to uphold past Japanese government statements on history.”
“For 70 years Japan has demonstrated an abiding commitment to peace, democracy and the rule of law. This record stands as a model for nations everywhere,” Price said.
The Wall Street Journal said Abe stopped short of offering an apology in his own words for Japan’s wartime actions and that his statement included “some defiant messages.”
Abe said Japan “has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology” and “such position articulated by the previous Cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.”
Abe said, “We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize,” a phrase suggesting the belief that Japan has already apologized enough.
The Washington Post said Abe offered his remorse for all those who died as a result of Japan’s wartime actions but “avoided explicitly repeating the apologies of his predecessors.”
Abe “did not offer a new, personal apology of his own,” The New York Times said.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has not taken a clear stance on whether Abe should apologize for wartime aggression against other parts of Asia but has repeatedly urged Japan to improve its strained ties with South Korea, a close security ally, and China to help stabilize the regional security situation.
Meanwhile, Bruce Klingner, an expert on Northeast Asian issues at the Heritage Foundation think tank, praised Abe’s statement, saying it was “far, far better than most experts and pundits would have predicted a year ago.”
Klingner said that the focus will now turn to South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s response to Abe’s statement.
The leaders of the neighboring countries have yet to meet one-on-one since they took office in 2012 and 2013, respectively, due to disagreements over the interpretation of Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.