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2015年8月16日 (日)

(社説)戦後70年の安倍談話 何のために出したのか

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 15
EDITORIAL: Abe’s war anniversary statement falls way short of the mark
(社説)戦後70年の安倍談話 何のために出したのか

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has left us wondering for what purpose and for whom it was written.

Issued Aug. 14, the statement falls grossly short as an accounting to sum up Japan’s modern history on the occasion of this landmark anniversary.

The statement includes all of the terms that had been singled out as crucial elements and were the main focus of international attention: aggression, colonial rule, remorse and apology.

But the statement somewhat obscures the fact that Japan was the country that committed the aggression and carried out colonial rule.

The document referred to remorse and apology for the war only indirectly by mentioning the fact that past Cabinets expressed these sentiments.

We feel strongly that the Abe administration did not have to issue, or rather, should not have issued this flawed statement.


The Abe statement struck us as an awkward compromise between the views about history held by him and his supporters and the hard and weighty historical facts.

The statement issued in 1995 by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war has been internationally recognized as a document describing the Japanese government’s views about the nation’s wartime past. Its most important feature is that it clearly acknowledged Japan’s act of aggression and candidly expressed remorse for the nation’s past and apologies to peoples of Asian countries.

In contrast, the Abe statement referred to Japan’s aggression in the following passage.

“Incident, aggression, war--we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”

This declaration, in itself, is not wrong, of course. But this clearly represents a back down from the position set by the Murayama statement, which Abe himself had pledged to uphold.

Even a report drawn up by a panel of personal advisers to Abe appointed to offer advice over the war commemorative statement made a clear reference to Japan’s aggression on the Asian continent.

The new statement is also a back down from how past prime ministers of the Liberal Democratic Party who held office before the Murayama statement described Japan’s wartime behavior. These leaders said to the effect that there was no denying Japan’s aggressive acts, even if they didn’t use the word “aggression.”

Much the same is true with the issue of apology.

Abe’s statement says, “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.”

Many Japanese certainly have the feeling of how long Japan has had to keep apologizing. On the other hand, China and South Korea have their reasons to keep demanding that Japan apologize.

Although the Japanese government has expressed remorse and apology, ministers and other top government officials repeatedly made remarks that cast doubt over the government’s statements. Prime ministers and other politicians paid many visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war criminals along with general war dead. Japan itself has done things that undermine the credibility of its own words.


If he wants to relieve Japan from the burden of having to keep apologizing, Abe, who is suspected by the international community to have biased views about history, should have gracefully offered his own apologies to end the cycle of negative sentiment that has been straining the relationship between Japanese and the peoples of other Asian nations. It is a pity that he failed to make that decision.

Aside from the content of the statement, the political process leading to the release of the document was a depressingly sad spectacle of flip-flopping by the administration.

Immediately after returning to power, Abe began expressing his desire to issue a “future-oriented statement fit for the 21st century.” His remarks indicated his intention to replace the history perceptions displayed by the Murayama statement with his own.

As this move caused serious concern to not only China and South Korea, but also the United States, Abe tilted toward issuing only his personal statement without official Cabinet endorsement.

But some close aides to Abe and Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, voiced an objection to the idea, saying that such a statement would not represent the government’s official position.
Abe then decided to have the statement approved by the Cabinet after all. It was distressing to see the administration change its mind repeatedly on the milestone statement.

Meanwhile, Western scholars as well as Japanese researchers called for Japan’s “unbiased” accounting of past wrongs. In opinion polls, a majority of Japanese also said the statement should acknowledge Japan’s “aggression” and other past wrongdoings.

In the first place, whether it is approved by the Cabinet or not, the prime minister’s statement cannot be cast merely as his “personal view.”

The statement is inevitably taken by the international community as Japan’s official view about its past based on the people’s collective will.

After making a wrongheaded and miserably failed move to turn the statement into his personal credo, Abe pathetically ended up issuing a statement that is fuzzy about the responsibility for aggression and his intention to offer an apology.


It is simply impossible for Abe to push through a major revision to the standard history perceptions that have been accepted by many Japanese and the international community by taking advantage of the ruling camp’s majority control of the Diet.

Abe has been stressing the need to adopt a future-oriented attitude toward history. But making the present and the future better than the past requires coming to terms with the past.
From this point of view, there are still many problems concerning Japan’s past that have been left unsolved, despite the urgent need to settle them.

The biggest of these problems concerns Yasukuni Shrine and the issue of how the government should mourn the war dead.

Diplomatic friction over Yasukuni has eased somewhat recently because Abe has not visited the Shinto shrine since the end of 2013.
But the issue will flare up immediately if he pays it another visit.

Even so, there has been no notable political move toward finding a solution to this problem.

No political consensus has been reached on any possible solution to the issue of “comfort women.” There has also been no progress either on the problem of the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea, with which Japan has no formal diplomatic relationship. Tokyo’s negotiations with Moscow for a settlement of the territorial dispute over the Northern Territories, a group of islands off Hokkaido controlled by Russia, have become bogged down.

While it has spent so much time and energy on a statement that did not have to be issued, the administration has done little to tackle these history related problems, which are crying out for effective political actions for solutions amid the aging of the Japanese and peoples of neighboring countries who experienced firsthand the ravages of war.

We cannot help but wonder for what purpose and for whom the administration is making its policy efforts. Its priorities are totally wrong.

The blame for this wretched situation should be borne by Abe himself.


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