Japan PM recounts past WWII apologies, falls short of offering his own

World Today

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd-R) delivers a war anniversary statement that neighbouring nations will scrutinise for signs of sufficient remorse over Tokyo’s past militarism at his official residence in Tokyo on August 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA

In an address marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned the Japanese government’s previous apology, but refrained from offering one on his own.

Abe stated that Japan had repeatedly in the past expressed “deep remorse” and apologized for the war, and that the country will continue to maintain the stances of the previous governments.

He also expressed regret at the suffering and sacrifices of many people during the war, saying that, “Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering.”

The Japanese leader also said that at present nearly 80 percent of Japan’s population belongs to the post-war generation, and that people “across generations must squarely face the history of the past.” However, while saying so, he added that the country must not let its future generations “be predestined to apologize.”

In his address, Abe sought to characterize Japan’s militaristic posture of the past as a product of the economic crisis that the country faced following the Great Depression in an era of Western colonialism.

“However, with the Great Depression setting in and the Western countries launching economic blocs by involving colonial economies, Japan’s economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan’s sense of isolation deepened and it attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force,” Abe said.

He went on to acknowledge that Japan had taken “the wrong course” back then, and based on the lessons of the past, the country “will continue to firmly uphold the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically based on the respect for the rule of law and not through the use of force.”

Abe’s statement was closely watched in China and South Korea as a key indicator of his will to improve ties. In the landmark 1995 statement, then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed “deep remorse” and offered a “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s past “aggression” and “colonial rule.”

A decade later, former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi repeated the key words. Both China and South Korea have been urging Abe to follow the examples of his predecessors.