Abe sticks to his guns

By Shi Yongming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, August 26, 2015
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Filipino women protest in Manila on August 14, demanding that the Japanese Government apologize and make compensation for the country's wartime atrocities during WWII (XINHUA)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a troubling statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II (WWII) during a press conference at his office in Tokyo on August 14. Its wording had been approved by the cabinet and echoes the Japanese Government's official stance in the past. This statement has drawn domestic and international attention and some of the remarks have shed light on how Abe views Japan's history of aggression.

When he took office for the second time in December 2012, Abe made clear that he would deliver a new statement on historical issues to replace previous statements made by former Japanese leaders, including Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's in 1995, in which he apologized for Japan's aggression and colonial rule.

In the last three years, Abe has demonstrated his historical revisionist views on many occasions. Firstly, he questioned Japan's role as an aggressor during WWII by arguing that there was no universal definition of the term "aggression." Secondly, he raised doubts about the legitimacy of the trials conducted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (1946-48), also known as the Tokyo Trials, which led to the conviction of Japan's Class-A war criminals. Thirdly, he denied that the Japanese Imperial Army forced women, the so-called "comfort women," into sex slavery during the war. Such opinions challenge the universal understanding of WWII and defy moral judgment.

Abe was aware that he would face international criticism had he boldly displayed his revisionist views in the planned statement to mark the occasion. Under huge international and domestic pressure, he ultimately compromised his stance by adding the following sentence in the statement—"Such position (remorse and apology) articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future."

Not biting the bullet

But the key problem is that Abe did not offer any formal apology of his own. Moreover, he tried to put an end to the apologies that previous Japanese governments had made. His actual words were: "We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize."

The statement implies that those countries which suffered from Japan's aggression in the past, such as China and South Korea, have been pestering the country for an apology. But the fact is none of those countries gave Japan a hard time until the 1980s, when Japan took a right turn and deviated from the pacifism which had prevailed the country after the end of WWII.

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