Adviser to Abe denies existence of war criminals

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Adviser to Abe denies existence of war criminals

Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Koichi Hagiuda, a close confidante to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, denied on Thursday the existence of war criminals in his country, a remark regarded as blatantly insensitive to the countries victimized by its military during World War II.

“In Japan, according to a National Diet resolution, war criminals do not exist and their honor was recovered,” Hagiuda, a lower house lawmaker who serves as a special adviser to the prime minister, said in a lecture, according to Japan’s Sankei Shimbun.

Hagiuda presented his address, roughly entitled “The Year Japan Recovers Its Pride and Dignity,” in the city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Abe was born in Yamaguchi and represented a district in the prefecture as a lawmaker.

“The prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine was not because he wants war,” Hagiuda added, in words that defended Abe’s visit to the shrine in Tokyo, which enshrines Japan’s war dead and honors 14 Class A World War II criminals.

The prime minister’s trip to Yasukuni in December 2013 drew international protests from counties including Korea, China and the United States because the shrine is seen to be a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggressions.

Hagiuda also denied the issue of the Japanese military’s forceful recruitment of girls and women into sexual slavery during war.

“We will review how damaging the Asahi Shimbun’s false reportage on the comfort women issue was to the international community and recover our dignity,” he said.

The remarks gloss over the crux of the issue - described by the United Nations as a human rights issue - and backs concerns relating to Japan’s moves toward historical revisionism.

The Korean government has repeatedly requested that Japan officially apologize to its wartime victims of sexual slavery, known euphemistically as “comfort women.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties between Japan and Korea, which has only bolstered expectations that the two countries would work toward easing diplomatic tensions.

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of Tokyo’s defeat in World War II, which has also led to concern that remarks by Japan’s right-wing leaders that essentially deny its history will not be conducive to mending soured relations.

Worries have also been voiced that Abe’s statement for the occasion in August may not uphold the 1995 Murayama Statement, issued at the time by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which expressed Japan’s “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s colonial rule and wartime aggression.

Also on Thursday, Japanese lawmaker Toshihiro Nikai, the chairman of the general council of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, kicked off a four-day trip to Korea, and some observers have speculated that he may deliver a personal letter from Abe to President Park Geun-hye on Friday during a visit to the Blue House, according to Kyodo News Agency.

Nikai, a former economic minister and eight-term lawmaker, is leading a large-scale 1,400-member Japanese delegation to help promote tourism and cooperation between the two countries to celebrate the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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