Report mutes past statements by Japan

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Report mutes past statements by Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a report from his advisory panel on how to proceed in his address next week to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which appears to play down apologies by the country’s previous prime ministers for Japan’s wartime atrocities.

Abe is looking to release his statement on Aug. 14, according to Tokyo officials, and the advisory panel’s 38-page report suggests that the speech includes words expressing remorse and an acknowledgement of Japan’s occupation over the Korea Peninsula and its wartime aggressions. However, it appears to omit a “heartfelt apology,” made by past prime ministers.

In February, Abe launched a 16- member panel chaired by Taizo Nishimuro, the CEO of Japan Post Holdings, to help advise him on his August statement, to be referenced for drafting the speech.

The report also emphasized Japan’s economic growth after the war and mentions the lack of reconciliation with Seoul and Beijing despite Tokyo’s commitment to pacifism.

The Associated Press reported that the panel did not reach a consensus on the definition of the word “aggression,” according to Shinichi Kitaoka, the panel’s co-chairman.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on the advisory panel’s report, stating that not only is Abe’s statement “a regression for our government’s intentions and efforts to create a virtuous cycle as Korea and Japan celebrate the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties, but it is also contrary to the Japanese government’s pledge to uphold previous cabinets’ historical understanding.”

Abe told reporters in Hiroshima earlier on Thursday that, for his upcoming statement, he will “gather wisdom to address remorse for the past war, the path of a peaceful postwar nation and what kind of contributions Japan must make to the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

“The Abe Cabinet upholds the positions of past prime ministers in their entirety on historical understanding.”

Observers have pointed out that Abe may, nonetheless, expand on his “personal opinion,” instead of expressing the official view adopted in the cabinet meeting and approved by the ruling coalition.

Kyodo News reported Wednesday that it is more possible that the statement will be released as a cabinet decision, as advisory panel members have agreed that it need not include an apology to highlight its “future oriented” nature.

Ultimately though, the report is a point of reference for Abe.

Seoul and the international community remain concerned, despite the fact that Abe has often stated that he would uphold the apologies of his predecessors, including the Murayama Statement, issued in 1995.

On Aug. 15, 1995, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama acknowledged that “Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries.”

He went on to extend Japan’s “deep remorse and heartfelt apology.”

However, in key speeches Abe has made over the past few months, he has shown a tendency to avoid making an official apology acknowledging Tokyo’s wartime aggressions.

BY SARAH KIM, OH YOUNG-HWAN [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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