Japan government to review statements on history

Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:07am EST
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By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's government will review statements by previous administrations about wartime history including a landmark 1995 apology, Japan's education minister said, but added that any changes would not mean rejecting those statements but making them more "forward-looking".

Any moves to renege on the 1995 apology by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama - now in Beijing on a mission aimed at soothing tension over a territorial row - would raise hackles in both China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's military aggression and colonization run deep.

The government will also review guidelines for school textbook publishers aimed at addressing the sensitivities of neighboring countries which suffered under Japan's military invasion and colonization, Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

"The government as a whole plans to review these (statements) issued by past cabinets concerning historical perspective," Shimomura said.

"This doesn't mean we will reject them and create something new, but it may be necessary to add forward-looking expressions," he said. "At least it is not the sort of review that China or South Korea would have to worry about. It is a domestic matter."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who swept back to power in December after a big election win, has a conservative agenda aimed at shedding the shackles of post-war pacifism and recasting Japan's wartime history in less apologetic tones.

But he and his cabinet appear wary of further straining ties with China and South Korea, already frayed by rows over territory and history, or upsetting Japanese voters more concerned about reviving the long-stagnant economy.

Included in the overall review will be a 1993 statement by then top-government spokesman Yohei Kono in which Japan admitted military involvement in forcing Asian and other women into sexual slavery at wartime brothels, Shimomura said, adding that the Kono statement had "caused misunderstandings".   Continued...

Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato