Japan's defense minister apologized yesterday for comments about
the 1945 US atomic bomb attacks on the country that outraged
survivors and drew criticism from the ruling bloc ahead of a key
election in July.
Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said he had not meant to offend the
victims when he said on Saturday that the bombings "couldn't be
helped" because they had brought World War II to an end and
prevented the Soviet Union from entering the war against Japan.
"If my remarks were seen as lacking regard for the feelings of
atomic bomb victims, then I am sorry," he told a news conference.
On Saturday, Kyuma had said in a speech: "My understanding is that
it ended the war and that it couldn't be helped ... I don't hold a
grudge against the United States."
The remarks drew condemnation from victims of the August 6, 1945
bombing of Hiroshima and the August 9 attack on Nagasaki, which
together killed more than 210,000 people by the end of the year.
Some opposition parties demanded Kyuma's resignation.
Five groups representing Nagasaki bomb survivors yesterday asked
Kyuma, elected from a Nagasaki constituency, not to attend a peace
ceremony on the anniversary of the bombing next month, Kyodo news
The groups, including the Nagasaki Council of A-bomb Sufferers,
noted that Kyuma had attended the annual event in the past, adding:
"While listening to those who suffered from the atomic bombing wish
for peace, you most probably must have been thinking it 'can't be
Abe won't fire Kyuma
Though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the bombings "an
unforgivable act", he said yesterday that he would not fire
"I want Mr Kyuma to exercise his leadership as the defense
minister on the issue of nuclear disarmament in the future," Abe
said in a debate with Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of the main
opposition Democratic Party.
But ruling party executives urged Kyuma to apologize for his
remarks, in a bid to minimize the damage ahead of the July 29 upper
"If the comments were misunderstood, then he should explain and
apologize," Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP), said earlier yesterday.
Abe has seen his support ratings drop to around 30 percent
recently largely due to voter anger over the government's
mishandling of pension records.
Officials in Japan - the only nation to suffer an atomic bombing
- typically express sympathy for the victims, but most avoid
criticizing the attacks out of consideration for Tokyo's ties with
Washington, its closest ally.
Abe said yesterday he has no plans to seek an apology from the
US over the atomic bombings of Japan during World War II.
"I think it's more important to focus on nuclear disarmament
than to use our energy seeking an apology from the United States,"
he said during a political debate.
Abe also said Japan, which renounces nuclear weapons, also has
to face "the reality that we need to rely on US deterrence" against
Political scientist Jiro Yamaguchi of Hokkaido University said
yesterday the Kyuma flap underscores a lack of leadership by Abe
and bodes ill for his government.
(China Daily via agencies July 2, 2007)