Abe Statement Set to Face History?


NHK today reports on the likely content of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s August 15 statement to mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II. According to an informed source, the text of the Abe statement will include certain key phrases from previous prime ministers’ statements, including those by Murayama Tomiichi in 1995 and Koizumi Jun’ichirō in 2005.

The source states that the current draft of the statement to go out at the end of this week will include terms like 痛切な反省 (tsūsetsu na hansei, “feelings of deep remorse”) and 植民地支配 (shokuminchi shihai, “colonial rule”), as well as お詫び (owabi, “apology”) and 侵略 (shinryaku, often meaning “invasion” and in previous statements translated as “aggression”).

The inclusion of these terms in the statement would be a welcome surprise to many who fear that Abe intends to speak primarily of Japan’s postwar record of pacifism and international contributions while glossing over its historical actions in the period leading up to its 1945 defeat.

In crafting the statement, Abe has been advised by the Advisory Panel on the History of the Twentieth Century and on Japan’s Role and World Order in the Twenty-first Century, a commission that met for the first time in February this year to discuss issues including the appropriate content for a seventieth-anniversary statement. (In March, Michael Cucek posted a good overview of that group and its membership on the East Asia Forum website.)

If today’s report holds true, and the prime minister manages to uphold the spirit of previous statements while also touching on the forward-looking elements he seeks to include, the statement this summer could manage to please more observers than expected. The NHK story also quotes an administration official as saying: “There may be some who have complaints about the minor details, but on the whole, it seems like a text that the great majority of the Japanese people can support.” Work is underway on finalizing the wording of the statement, which will be approved by the cabinet before its publication later this week.

(Banner photo: Prime Minister Abe [right] receives the Advisory Panel’s final report on August 6 from commission chair Nishimuro Taizō [center] and deputy chair Kitaoka Shin’ichi [left]. © Jiji.)

Abe Shinzō apology war anniversary statement responsibility