Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's handling of history issues during this 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II defeat came under critical scrutiny at the recent Japanese Studies Association of Australia conference hosted by La Trobe University in Melbourne.
Arthur Stockwin, the University of Oxford's eminent political scientist on Japanese politics, assessed the arc of apology from 1995 to 2015, highlighting the counterproductive backsliding that has occurred during Abe's tenure.
Although there has been no shortage of Japanese apologies for wartime misdeeds, an unwarranted apology fatigue has taken hold. Unwarranted because, as Stockwin argues, every official apology has been undermined by countervailing comments aimed at repudiating or dismissing the contrition expressed. This undermines any potential goodwill because Japan looks like it is wriggling out of its war responsibility and downplaying the horrors that it inflicted on Asia.