(Sankei: August 19, 2015 – p. 6)
By Satoshi Sekoguchi
The editorials of Sankei Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, and Nihon Keizai Shimbun gave positive reviews to the statement issued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the day before the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, while the other three newspapers criticized the statement.
Sankei wrote that it was “appropriate” that the statement said we must not let our children and grandchildren, who have nothing to do with the war, be “predestined to apologize.” It emphasized that “the important thing is to end apology diplomacy with this statement.”
It also warned China and the ROK sternly that, “Using wording in the statement to revile Japan and make further unjust demands for apology will be unacceptable, and Japan will not meet such demands.” It further asked the Japanese government “not to stop sending out messages on historical facts to refute [China and the ROK].”
Likewise, Yomiuri also favored sparing future generations from apologizing. It asked China and the ROK for their understanding and exercise of restraint.
In contrast, Asahi claimed that “China and the ROK have their reasons for persisting in their demand for apology.” It faulted Abe, “who is suspected of holding a biased view of history by the international community,” for not making the decision to “apologize gallantly, if he does not want to apologize continuously.”
The Abe Statement indicated that statements by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and others will be upheld by pointing out that previous cabinets have “expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for the past war and that “such position will remain unshakable into the future.”
Nikkei commended the Statement for being “sensible, in general,” while Mainichi rejected this as a “weak message using evasive language that merely cited efforts by past cabinets.” Mainichi regards the Murayama Statement as an “asset, as well as a restraining force, in Japan’s diplomacy.”
On the other hand, Sankei asserted that, “The Murayama Statement made a one-sided judgment on past history. It has undermined national interest by becoming the basis of repeated demands for apology and for compensation for damages that had already been settled.” It suggested that Abe’s remark at his news conference that “politicians should be humble before history” “should probably be used in reference to the Murayama Statement.”
“Aggression,” a keyword many media outlets had paid keen attention to, was used in the Statement.
Yomiuri supported this. It argued that, “It is important for the Prime Minister to admit ‘aggression’ explicitly” and that, “The admission of ‘aggression’ as an objective fact does not constitute a masochistic view of history.” It took a position different from Asahi, Mainichi, and Tokyo Shimbun, which unanimously took issue with the ambiguity of who perpetuated aggression. Tokyo Shimbun stated: “It is unclear whether Japan was guilty of aggression or whether this was about the international community in general.” However, it appears that all four newspapers agree that “the actions of the Japanese Imperial Army after the Manchurian Incident [of 1931] most definitely constituted aggression.” (Yomiuri)
A distinguishing characteristic of the Abe Statement is that along with remorse for the past war, the focus is basically on the future. Sankei supported the Statement’s “designation of Japan as a guardian of the international order,” terming this a “matter of course.” It stressed the need to pass the security bills currently being deliberated in the Diet, asserting that, “Strengthening security cooperation is also indispensable in this regard. Enacting new security legislation is part of such efforts.”
Yomiuri also observed that, “It is necessary to uphold proactive pacifism and make contributions to world peace and prosperity.”
Nikkei urged Abe to build “future-oriented diplomatic relations” because “the issuance of the Statement is not the end of the story; what is important is what Japan will do in light of this Statement.”
With the issuance of the Statement, Prime Minister Abe has taken up serious responsibility for the realization of peace. It is disturbing that Asahi said in its editorial: “There was no need to issue this statement, or rather, it should not have been issued.”
Is it saying the Statement should not have been issued because Asahi did not like it? I am beginning to be intrigued by the question of what Asahi would have written in its editorial if, indeed, no statement was issued.