70年談話懇報告 首相も「侵略」を明確に認めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Abe must clearly admit ‘aggression’ in anniversary statement on WWII
70年談話懇報告 首相も「侵略」を明確に認めよ


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must send a clear message that Japan made a fresh start in the postwar period based on its reflection on the past misguided war.

The Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century and on Japan’s Role and World Order in the 21st Century has submitted to Abe a report compiled after its discussions on the statement he will release next week to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The report evaluated the postwar international contribution Japan made after learning lessons from its prewar failures and pointed out the need to make greater efforts to realize its proactive contribution to world peace.

The report determined that Japan expanded its “aggression” against the continent after the Manchurian Incident of 1931. This historical perspective can be regarded as hitting the nail on the head.

A turning point

However, the report contained a footnote that there were some dissenting views among panel members concerning the use of the word “aggression.” According to the report, the reasons for this included that the definition of “aggression” has not been established under international law and there is an objection from a historical perspective to stating that the series of events from the Manchurian Incident onward constituted “aggression.”

But acts of sending troops into territories of a foreign country and infringing on its sovereignty have been defined by historians as “aggression.”

In this sense, the series of acts from the Manchurian Incident onward obviously constituted “aggression.” It is irrational to refute that it was for the purpose of defense. The events also constituted a violation of the antiwar treaty signed in 1928 that banned wars except for defensive purposes.

It is not acceptable to argue defiantly that the United States and European countries also committed aggression. It is also wrong to assert that Japan waged the war for the liberation of Asia.

The report also said: “Japan acted counter to the tide of self-determination. Colonial rule became particularly harsh from the second half of the 1930s on.”

It added that “Japan’s postwar trajectory is based on a thorough reflection of its actions in the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s.” The report also pointed out the need to work toward achieving reconciliation with China and South Korea. Both points are significant.

The report expresses no opinion on whether Abe should offer an apology. “Whether or not to make an apology is the prime minister’s decision,” Shinichi Kitaoka, the panel’s deputy chairman and president of International University of Japan, said at a press conference. Even so, we think it would have been good if the panel had considered how such an apology might be offered.

National interests at stake

The report’s introduction states, “The Panel hopes that this Report serves as a reference for the statement to be issued on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.”

One closely watched element of Abe’s statement will be his handling of key words that were contained in the statement issued by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, and the statement by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to mark the 60th anniversary. Both of these statements explicitly expressed “deep remorse” for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” and stated a “heartfelt apology.”

We don’t think the political meaning of Abe’s statement should be judged automatically by its use — or omission — of key words from the earlier statements. Be that as it may, the international community will be carefully observing what kind of historical perception is displayed by the Japanese prime minister.

Abe previously stirred up controversy when he said the word “aggression” has no established definition in the international community.

In an article contributed to The Yomiuri Shimbun, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone asserted, “From the viewpoint of those peoples, the Japanese military stepped into their countries with their boots on, and this was unmistakably an act of aggression.”

Sense of apology

If Abe omits the word “aggression” from his statement, he will inevitably be viewed as not wanting to accept the fact that Japan committed aggression. If suspicions are harbored over Japan’s actions and trust in Japan is shaken because of this, it will damage the national interest.

There are strong concerns that not offering any gesture at all to the many people who were forced to endure tremendous suffering and sacrifice because of Japan’s actions before the end of the war could generate the misunderstanding that “Japan does not feel remorse for what happened.”

We can understand why many Japanese people feel uncomfortable about continuing to apologize generation after generation.

We suppose it is time to draw a line, and make this the final apology, for once and for all.

Even if Abe’s statement uses expressions that indirectly touch on the views of previous cabinets, such as quotes from the Murayama statement, it should also include words that convey sincere feelings of apology regarding Japan’s “aggression” and “colonial rule.”

Or it should incorporate words of apology from the prime minister himself that will resonate in the hearts of people who suffered during the war.

Leaders of Germany, a nation that has squarely reflected on its Nazi-era past, have gained the confidence of France and other nearby countries by using heartfelt expressions, even if they did not use direct words of apology.

This could be an example from which Japan can learn.

Abe has spoken of his desire to issue a future-oriented statement. However, he should keep in mind that properly reviewing the past is precisely the way to ensure that Japan’s international contributions and policy of proactive contribution to peace are positively evaluated.

Opinions within the government and ruling parties are split over whether the 70th anniversary statement should be issued after a decision by the Cabinet to support it. Considering that this is a statement for which the Cabinet should take responsibility, we think the Cabinet needs to make such a decision.

The statement should confidently tell the world about the path Japan has taken in the 70 years since the war ended.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 7, 2015)Speech

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