TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan should not let foreign countries make diplomatic capital out of its wartime past, an aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday, as the author of a landmark 1995 apology urged Abe not to backtrack as it marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
The conservative Abe has said he upholds past statements including then-premier Tomiichi Murayama’s “heartfelt apology” for the suffering caused by Japanese military aggression during the war.
But Abe has also said he wants to make new, forward-looking remarks. Abe’s political allies want him to end what they see as an endless cycle of apologies over the war that they believe distracts from Japan’s post-war record of peace.
“This has become a political card with people overseas saying that to be persuasive, a certain script must be followed ... in a statement that Japan will issue on its own,” Koichi Hagiuda, a special aide to Abe in his Liberal Democratic Party, told Reuters. “If he meets those expectations, this will eternally become a political card.”
Both China and South Korea, where bitter memories of the Japan’s military aggression run deep, have made clear they do not want Abe to dilute past apologies. Abe’s domestic critics also say he should lay to rest doubts about his view of wartime history.
“He (Abe) should follow carefully in the footsteps of his predecessors,” Murayama, 91, told a news conference. “But probably Mr. Abe has a different idea.”
The LDP’s Hagiuda dismissed the notion that some close to Abe were worried that Emperor Akihito, in whose father’s name Japanese troops waged the war, might use the anniversary to send a subtly different message that could be seen as a rebuke of Abe by the widely respected 81-year-old Japanese monarch.
Japanese weeklies have floated the idea that Akihito might alter his traditional phrases at a memorial ceremony on Aug. 15, the day his father Hirohito announced Japan’s defeat.
Akihito has tried to promote reconciliation with Asian countries. But the emperor is banned by the constitution from any political role. Changes to his traditional remarks at the ceremony would likely be nuanced at most.
“What the emperor says is based on his own responsibility as head of state and on his own experience,” the LDP’s Hagiuda said. “This does not necessarily need to be consistent with what the prime minister says as head of the administration. Their positions are different.”
Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Nick Macfie