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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated that he does not plan to repeat the keywords used in the 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th year since the end of World War II when he issues a new statement this summer to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war’s end. “Now that I have said that I inherit the basic way of thinking (contained in the past statements by prime ministers on war anniversaries), I do not need to write them again,” Abe said in a TV program aired Monday. He also said he would not need to issue a new statement if he was merely going to repeat the words of his predecessors — that he might as well just copy those texts and add his name.

But if Abe says that he does indeed honor the thinking behind the past statements, why is he reluctant to repeat the keywords — in particular the core elements of the earlier statements that relate to the government’s perception of Japan’s prewar and wartime actions? Contrary to what he says, his remarks only seem to fuel skepticism that he in fact questions the thinking behind the past prime ministers’ statements.

Twenty years ago, Murayama expressed his “heartfelt apology” to people in Asian countries over Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” before and during WWII. Such words were essentially repeated a decade later when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi issued a statement to mark the 60th anniversary of the war’s ending. What Abe will say in his upcoming statement has been a subject of political speculation since he said earlier this year that he wants to avoid “nitpicking” about what words were omitted or newly inserted compared with the past war-anniversary statements.

Koizumi also mentioned Japan’s apology for its colonial rule and wartime aggression when he addressed an international conference held in 2005 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference. In a speech Abe gave Wednesday to the summit of Asian and African leaders in Jakarta to commemorate the 60th year from the 1955 conference, he referred to Japan’s “deep remorse” over WWII but made no mention of an apology or colonial rule and aggression.

On Monday’s TV show, Abe noted that the major pillars of his upcoming statement will be Japan’s remorse for the war, its postwar path as a pacifist nation, its resolve to contribute to regional and global peace, and the shape of Japan and the world 100 years from now. But if he wants to highlight Japan’s postwar efforts and future ambitions, he must clarify his thoughts on the nation’s wartime past — which served as the basis for its rise as a pacifist country after the war. Abe should revisit his own words — which he said to members of his advisory panel on the war-anniversary statement at the outset of their first meeting in February: that the foundation for the future can never be disconnected from the past.

Abe has repeatedly stated in the Diet that the definition of “aggression” has not been established either in academic or international terms. In 2013, he said his administration does not inherit the Murayama statement as it is — although he later toned down his rhetoric and said that he inherits the positions of past governments as a whole, including Murayama’s 1995 statement. Such remarks call to question his endorsement of Murayama’s apology.

Abe should realize that the future-oriented, forward-looking message he apparently wants to convey in his statement this summer could be undermined if, by his omission of the past administrations’ recognition of Japan’s wartime past, other countries suspect that the nation is revising its perception of history. If Abe does indeed endorse the thinking behind his predecessors’ previous war-anniversary statements, he should not hesitate to repeat their words.

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