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Column: “Colonial rule,” “aggression” key concepts in Abe statement on end of WWII

  • 2015-02-09 15:00:00
  • , Mainichi
  • Translation

(Mainichi: February 7, 2015 – p. 1)


 During a visit to the Prime Minister’s Official Residence (Kantei) in February 2013, former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “Twenty years have passed since the Murayama Statement was issued. It’s fine to review it.” This was a time when the Western countries were claiming that Abe is a “historical revisionist.” Abe seemed at a loss, so Murayama added: “Just aufheben in a positive way.”


 Aufheben is a term used by the German philosopher Hegel to mean preserve what is good in an old doctrine and uplift this to a higher realm. At that time, Kantei officials had started to consider issuing an “Abe statement” in 2015 for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. A ruling party Diet member who was informed of this exchange between Murayama and Abe pointed out that “aufheben will determine the contents of the statement.”


 Murayama issued a statement on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi issued a statement on the 60th anniversary, expressing “deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for the past war. These two statements became controversial for defining Japan’s wartime acts as “colonial rule and aggression.” China and the ROK, which suffered great damages in the war, attach great importance to this as the core component of the Japanese government’s interpretation of history.


 On the other hand, certain Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members still maintain that the past war was a war for “self-preservation and self-defense.” A senior Kantei official recalls that “when Prime Minister Koizumi issued the 60th anniversary statement, some LDP lawmakers criticized him for issuing such a statement.” Abe himself has shown a certain extent of understanding to this position. For example, he stated at the House of Councillors Budget Committee in April 2013 that “the definition of aggression is yet to be determined and it changes depending on where one stands in relations between states.”


 Abe may face serious criticism whether he affirms or denies “colonial rule and aggression.” Therefore, he has chosen not to mention these keywords specifically and “adhere to the overall spirit” of the two previous statements, in order to suppress criticism from both sides. He stated on a NHK talk show in January that focusing the discussion on whether specific words are used or not is “trivial” and reiterated that he will adhere to the overall position of past cabinet decisions.


 An aide to the Prime Minister explained that the new statement “will be future-oriented and will highlight Japan’s steady advance as a peaceful country in the postwar world and its intent to contribute to the international community under the policy of proactive pacifism.”


 While there is an opinion in the LDP that Japan’s position on the purpose of the past war, the comfort women issue, and other related subjects should also be included, this aide indicated that such opinion will be rejected and “elements that will undermine relations with the U.S., China, and the ROK will not be incorporated.”


 Abe has long shown a strong interest in the history issues. Why is he appearing to be “shelving” such issues? A LDP Diet member close to him says: “This is to enable him to devote utmost efforts to ‘departure from the postwar regime,’ which is the essence of his philosophy as a politician. He will probably mention constitutional revision in the 70th anniversary statement as a symbol of departure.”

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