Taro Aso, Japan's Deputy Prime Minister, does it again. Photo: Reuters/Ng Han Guan
Taro Aso didn't back too many winners in the election. Photo: Reuters / Ng Han Guan

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday retracted a remark to lawmakers of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that could be interpreted as a defence of Adolf Hitler’s motive for genocide during World War Two.

Tuesday’s comment by Aso, who also serves as finance minister, drew criticism from a US-based Jewish group. The incident followed a June apology by Japan’s central bank over a board member’s praise for Hitler’s economic policies.

On Tuesday, Kyodo news agency quoted Aso as saying, “I don’t question your motives (to be a politician). But the results are important. Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his motives were right.”

“It is clear from my overall remarks that I regard Hitler in extremely negative terms, and it’s clear that his motives were also wrong,” Aso said in the Wednesday statement.

Aso said he wanted to stress the importance of delivering results, but not defend Hitler. “It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that.”

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed “distress and disappointment” at Aso’s comment.

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed “distress and disappointment” at Aso’s comment.

“This is just the latest of a troubling list of ‘misstatements’ and are downright dangerous,” the centre’s head, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“These words damage Japan’s reputation at the very time when all Americans want to show their solidarity with Japan, our sister democracy and ally, following the missile launch from Kim Jong Un’s North Korea,” he added.

Aso is no stranger to gaffes, having retracted a comment in 2013 about Hitler’s rise to power that was interpreted as praising the Nazi regime.

Referring at the time to Japan’s efforts to revise its constitution, he said the constitution of Weimar Germany had been changed before anyone realized, and asked, “Why don’t we learn from that technique?”

In June, Bank of Japan board member Yutaka Harada told a seminar Hitler’s economic policies had been “appropriate” and “wonderful” but had enabled the Nazi dictator to do “horrible” things.

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