Japan's Abe to use the term ‘apology’ in WW2 remarks

Abe tries to satisfy both nationalist supporters at home and neighbours where bitter memories of Japan's colonisation run deep

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will reportedly use the terms "apology" and "aggression" in a much anticipated statement 70 years after the end of the World War Two, despite initial reports that the first draft did not include the controversial terms.

Japan's NHK public TV reported that Abe's statement would include the terms "apology," "deep remorse," "aggression" and "colonial rule," without giving any further details.

The statement will be closely watched by China - parts of which were occupied by Japan before and during World War Two - and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the country persist.

Any statement without an "apology" would be expected to anger these countries and media reports have suggested that Abe is trying to find a balance to satisfy nationalist supporters in his country who reject further apologies as well as relations with China.

The statement should be approved by Japan's cabinet one day before August 15 when the country will mark the 70th anniversary of its surrender in World War Two.

Former Japanese leader Tomiichi Murayama issued a “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s wartime conduct in 1995. The statement was repeated by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi 10 years later.

"While it appears that Abe is considering the inclusion of such keywords in an attempt to preempt criticism both at home and from overseas, it seems possible, perhaps even probable, that he will significantly alter the context in which these terms are used from the Murayama statement," political science professor Koichi Nakano from Japan's Sophia University told Reuters.

"He might thus try to satisfy both his revisionist base and critics, but he might also simply anger both."

South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged Abe to uphold Japan's previous statements regarding World War Two on Monday.

"On this meaningful occasion [of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two], we hope that Japanese government makes clear its stance that it upholds historical recognition of previous Japanese administrations," she was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"And we also hope that Japan will take a mature attitude to start anew its relations with neighbouring countries including South Korea." 

The controversy comes after Japan commemorated the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and renewed debates around constitutional changes which would give permission to the country’s military forces to fight abroad for first time since World War Two.

Most of the Japanese public oppose the controversial bill and believe it will hurt the country's pacifist constitution, which has been in place for 70 years, by expanding the role of the military.

Abe is also expected to visit Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni shrine, which is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism because it honors wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals along with millions of war dead.

TRTWorld and agencies