WASHINGTON – The United States refrained from mentioning Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s failure to include a direct apology for Japan’s wartime aggression in his statement on the end of World War II, U.S. government officials said recently, apparently worrying that any reference could encourage China and South Korea to step up their anti-Japan rhetoric.
The White House reacted positively to Abe’s statement, saying it clearly conveyed his repentance, but it did not mention the lack of a new apology, one of U.S. officials noted.
Abe mentioned “feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology” in the statement to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the war but only in the context of what past Japanese governments have repeatedly expressed over its actions during the war.
The White House commended Abe’s statement soon after he released it last Friday, saying he expressed deep remorse.
U.S. media outlets criticized Abe for failing to make his own apology for Japan’s wartime deeds, and China, one of the Asian countries that suffered under Japanese militarism, has called for Abe’s own apology.
Abe is seen as having revisionist tendencies and his the statement was closely watched as the U.S. government repeatedly called on the Japanese government to follow past statements issued on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the end of the war.
In 1995, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed in his statement his “feelings of deep remorse” as well as a “heartfelt apology.” Ten years later, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed in his statement his “feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology.”
Another U.S. official downplayed the lack of Abe’s own apology in his recent statement calling on people concerned to highlight forward-looking sides of the statement and try to improve strained ties between Japan and China as well as Japan and South Korea, based on the statement.
Meanwhile a diplomatic source suggested U.S. President Barack Obama could ask China and South Korea to try harder to improve strained ties with Japan during planned meetings in the United States with President Xi Jinping in September and Park Geun-hye in October.