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Reasons why Shinzo Abe's war apology is not sincere

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Photo: Reuters

In a statement made on August 14 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reflected on Japan's wartime aggression and expressed his heartfelt grief for the immeasurable damages and sufferings his country inflicted on the neighboring countries in the war, stressing that such position will remain unshakable into the future.

Japan's repentance for its wartime atrocities and apology to the victims is the important political cornerstone for its relations with the neighboring Asian countries. Different from Germany, the prime mover of the war in Europe, Japan did not specify its war guilt and responsibility in the pacifist constitution largely drafted by the US, which makes the war anniversary statements issued by previous prime ministers a barometer for Japanese attitude toward its wartime history.

Before the August 14 statement, Abe had never used the words "aggression" and "apology", two key words used by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi, when referring to war-related historical issues, sparking international concerns over his foreign policy.

Livid at Japan's act of abducting women to serve as sex slaves during the war, South Korea urged the conservative Japanese leader to make a further apology for the sufferings his country inflicted on the neighboring countries, based on the Murayama Statement and the Koizumi Statement. Former chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono has said that Abe should write "sincere apology" into his war anniversary statement. In response to Abe's war anniversary remarks, China asked Japan to face up to its imperialist past, setting a bottom line for the China-Japan relationship.

Compared with his two previous war anniversary remarks as prime minister, Abe renewed this year's war anniversary statement by crowing about Japan's victory in the war with Russia in 1904-1905, which he said played a "historic role" in arousing Asian and African countries' awareness of national liberation. The emphasis on the "historic role" belittles the significance of Japan's war responsibility that should be the center of Abe's war anniversary statement. Hence, is his apology from the bottom of his heart?

In fact, Abe used the words "aggression" and "apology" in his war anniversary statement out of the political consideration as he is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit to China in September, at a time when China will hold a great military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Japanese invader in World War II, and amid China-US tensions over territorial disputes and historical issues. President Xi will also pay a visit to the US in September.

In addition, Abe is also afflicted by the domestic pressure. According to a poll, 70 percent of Japanese nationals surveyed thought that Abe should offer an apology to the victimized countries in his war anniversary statement. The prime minister has lost much of support because of his efforts of emancipating Japan's collective self-defense right and restarting a nuclear reactor.

Thus, Abe's apology is not sincere and reflects a political compromise.

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi.)

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