Japan in line with Abe’s stance: Poll

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Japan in line with Abe’s stance: Poll

Nearly a third of Japanese respondents in a recent survey said that there was no need for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acknowledge the country’s wartime aggressions or express remorse in his upcoming statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Nippon TV, affiliated with the Yomiuri Shimbun, conducted a survey from Friday to Saturday that found that just 15.5 percent of the Japanese people believe Abe’s upcoming statement in August should include key terms acknowledging the country’s “aggression” during its colonial rule over Korea (1910-45) and its “remorse” and “apology.” Of those surveyed, 30.5 percent even said that none of the three terms needed to be included, all phrases found in the landmark 1995 Murayama Statement.

On Aug. 15, 1995, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama acknowledged at the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II that “Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries” and went on to extend the nation’s “deep remorse and heartfelt apology.”

Some 41.9 percent said that the war of “aggression” and an expression of “remorse” would be preferable in the upcoming Abe statement.

But observers are concerned that Abe may not repeat the wording of the Murayama Statement in its entirety, a move which would add to already frayed bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo. Abe and other right-wing politicians have shown a reluctance to acknowledge Japan’s invasion of other countries and the forceful nature of forced recruitment of young women into sexual slavery.

Abe and President Park Geun-hye have yet to hold an official summit because of ongoing historical disputes, even with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations.

In a recent report, the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that an improvement in Korea-Japan relations seemed unlikely, even after talks between Park and Abe.

The “U.S.-South Korea Relations” report, dated June 11, stated that “neither Park nor Abe appears willing to be seen as compromising with the other” and that “the approaches of both leaders on historical issues appear to contradict one another and are locked in a vicious circle.”

It detailed the lack of a “breakthrough” in bilateral negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo to resolve the “comfort women” issue, a euphemistic term used to describe the thousands of young women and girls “who were forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers during Imperial Japan’s conquest and colonization of several Asian countries in the 1930s and 1940s, including Korea.”

The document, released on Saturday by the congressional think tank, further added that, “Even if the two leaders hold a formal summit, it is unclear whether the two governments will have the interest or capacity to do more than maintain ad-hoc cooperation.” This includes a unified response to aggressive actions by North Korea.

The United States seeks to enhance South Korea-Japan relations to improve coordination on North Korea policy and to “deal with the strategic challenges posed by China’s rise,” the report said. “The ongoing opportunity costs to the United States have led some policy analysts to call for the United States to become more directly involved in trying to improve relations between the two sides,” it added.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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