(Asahi: February 28, 2015 – p. 17)
By Haruki Wada, professor emeritus of history, University of Tokyo
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is saying that he will “adhere in general” to past cabinets’ position on history, including the Murayama Statement issued on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, in his statement to be issued on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. However, it appears that he will not state that Japan followed a “mistaken national policy” and that it caused damages to the people of Asia “through its colonial rule and aggression.” When he is criticized on this specific point, he tends to evade the question in Diet interpellations.
Abe seems to have special feelings for the anniversaries of Japan’s defeat in the past war. In 1995, as the deputy secretary general of the “parliamentary union on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II,” he opposed the Diet resolution expressing Japan’s “deep remorse” for its “colonial rule and aggression,” but the resolution was passed by the Diet. During the first Abe cabinet in 2006, he was forced by the opposition and the media to state that he would adhere to the Kono Statement on the “comfort women” and the Murayama Statement.
When he made his second bid to become Liberal Democratic Party president in 2012, he advocated a review of both these statements. However, he faced strong criticism from the U.S. after assuming office and eventually indicated his adherence to these statements in the Diet.
ROK President Park Geun-hye has refused to hold any summit meeting without a resolution of the comfort women issue, but Abe will not compromise at all. The pro-Abe media outlets have been waging a campaign to give the impression that the Kono Statement was “defective.” If he is indeed adhering to the Kono Statement, he should take additional measures in response to President Park’s demand and remove the thorn in the bilateral relationship before issuing the 70th anniversary statement.
What will Abe say in the new statement? He will probably adopt a position of resolutely fulfilling Japan’s obligation on the side of the coalition of the willing led by the U.S. and France in the war against the Islamic State and other terrorist forces amid the reality of war in the world. This makes me uneasy.
He might be trying to set the course for Japan by passing a cabinet decision on a statement that incorporates elements of Abe-ism – such as “bringing Japan back on the right track,” diplomacy with a global perspective, the right to collective self-defense, constitutional revision, and proactive pacifism.
The question is whether that is what the Japanese people want. Although the Islamic State killed the two Japanese hostages, neither their families nor the majority of the Japanese people are calling for retaliation. The Japanese people have no prejudice against the Muslims or the Jews. Japan needs to lead the peaceful and non-violent efforts to overcome confrontation and hatred and to eradicate poverty, discrimination, and despair.
The Japanese people have lived with a pacifist constitution that prohibits the use of force in the settlement of international disputes for 70 years. How the new statement should be written is an issue for the Japanese people to decide.