Japanese intellectuals stand up to Abe’s revisions

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Japanese intellectuals stand up to Abe’s revisions

TOKYO - A group of Japanese academics and former bureaucrats will band together to oppose the Shinzo Abe administration’s skewed view of history and defend the 1995 Murayama Statement, which apologized for Japan’s past misdeeds.

Some 16 intellectuals including Takao Kamakura, economics professor emeritus at Saitama University, held a press conference at the Diet yesterday and announced they will launch an association to “perpetuate and improve upon the Murayama Statement.”

The group expressed concern yesterday about what Abe and his government might do next to distort history.

The “Abe administration is at a point where it can’t be stopped, starting with movements to modify the Murayama Statement in 1995, which clearly stated Japan’s responsibility for its war of aggression,” the group said.

“In this sort of critical situation that the country’s fate depends upon, the association was launched to re-examine the significance of the Murayama Statement and convey this spirit to future generations.”

Since his inauguration last December, Abe has ired Japan’s neighbors with such right-wing plans as amending the pacifist Japanese Constitution and disavowing the Murayama Statement.

The Murayama Statement, an apology made by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on Aug. 15, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, was considered Japan’s official position regardless of which political party was in power.

The statement reads: “During a certain period in the not-too-distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”

In April, Abe said, “I want to say that the term ‘aggression’ was not defined internationally or academically. In a relationship between two countries, it depends on which one defines it.” He then suggested a revision to the Murayama Statement.

After Abe was elected last December, he also proposed a review of the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologizing for the damage caused by the Japanese government recruiting Asian women to serve as sex slaves for its military.

He promised a very different kind of statement for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2015.

Within Japan, there have been civilian organizations that sympathize with the country’s neighbors on the sex slaves and history textbooks issues that do not acknowledge Japan’s past military aggressions. This is the first time an association has been formed to support the Murayama Statement.

The group also includes Hiroshi Tanaka, sociology professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, Naoto Amaki, a former ambassador to Lebanon and Tadatomo Yoshida, chair of the Social Democratic Party, which Murayama is a member of.

They said they intend to block an overturning or revision of the Murayama Statement by the Abe government. They pointed out that the Abe administration has flip-flopped on its position on the Murayama Statement. In May, Abe said that his administration “upholds the [Murayama] statement as a whole,” then later questioned the definition of “aggression.”

Yoshida said yesterday the problem “fundamentally lies with a flaw in [Prime Minister Abe’s] historical perception.”

He added that unless Abe makes it clear he will support the Murayama Statement, any summits with the leaders of Korea or China will be impossible.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seko Hiroshige blamed Korea for the fact that there has been no summit between the countries’ leaders in the last year. He blamed Korea’s “internal situation” in an interview on television Sunday.

BY KIM HYUN-KI, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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