Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is poised to add a few more sticking points to Tokyo’s already testy relations with China over Japan’s role in World War II. His stance also is likely to irk ally South Korea due to its colonial history with Japan.
Abe publicly said Monday that he doesn’t intend to use the words “aggression” and “apology” in an upcoming statement in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end in 1945. This means Abe will not add to or further embellish a 1995 statement by then Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the issue.
At the time, Murayama, a socialist, said that “Japan … through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.” Then he expressed his “feelings of deep remorse” and offered his “heartfelt apology.”
“There is no need to issue a (new) statement if it is to be the same as previous statements,” including one issued by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama 20 years ago, Abe told a local TV program. “I want to tell people what I am thinking as prime minister,” he said.
Though China has pressed Japan for clarity on its wartime role, Abe said on TV that he’s already pledged to inherit basic ideas behind what earlier Japanese leaders have said about its behavior toward its neighbors in the war.
Abe’s words come as Japan revamps its mutual defense pact with the U.S. amid continuing tensions with China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan is also noncommittal about joining a China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and has increased defense outlays under its latest budget.