The jitters over what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would say in his statement this summer to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan’s last war illustrate how the way the nation should come to terms with its history of aggression and colonial rule of its Asian neighbors remains an issue seven decades on. Abe’s reported plan to lay the emphasis on the future in the Aug. 15 statement should not be an attempt to water-down Japan’s responsibility for its past behaviors. He needs to weigh the potential diplomatic repercussions of his planned statement, in particularly on Japan’s strained ties with China and South Korea.

Speaking Monday after the annual new-year pilgrimage to the Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, Abe said he would like the statement to “show to the world Japan’s clear intent to make further international contribution” under his administration’s pursuit of “proactive pacifism.” Abe also said the administration adhere to the past Cabinets’ position on the perception of wartime history, including the 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama that marked half a century after the war. The new statement, he said, would discuss Japan’s “remorse for the past war, its postwar development as a pacifist nation, and how it can contribute to the Asia-Pacific region and the world.”

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