EditorialAssessment of Prime Minister Abe’s 8/14/15 Speech

On August 14, 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered his long-awaited speech on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Asia. In his speech, Abe said “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and hearfelt apology for its actions during the war. … Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future. … We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.” However, for reasons explained below, because of what he didn’t say and some other things that he did say, his speech is completely unacceptable to try to put this part of history behind us.

Because Abe and other Japanese leaders have on so many occasions made comments that are contrary to previous personal apologies by other Japanese leaders (comments such as the Nanking Massacre was just the natural result of war or it was fabricated by the Chinese, the comfort women were paid prostitutes, etc.), his comment about accepting previous apologies is meaningless. Furthermore, none of these former apologies was issued by Japan’s highest organ of state power, its parliament. Unlike Germany, the Japanese government has rewritten this part of history in their textbooks, and there is no law in Japan that makes it illegal to deny publicly the massive atrocities committed by the Japanese military during WWII. In addition, his action of paying tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine where 14 convicted and executed Japanese Class A war-crime criminals are enshrined again makes his speech meaningless.

Abe also blamed Western colonization and economic policies to cause Japan to take “the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.” In other words, Japan was forced by other countries to launch its war of aggression and unimaginable scale of atrocity. Does this reflect a man with “feelings of deep remorse and hearfelt apology for its actions during the war”?

This is why Abe’s 8/14/15 statement is far from sufficient to put this part of history behind us.

For the complete text of Abe’s speech: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/world/asia/full-text-shinzo-abe-statement-japan-ww2-anniversary.html.

* Quote from George Santayana, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Albert Einstein

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