At a ceremony in Tokyo marking the 70th anniversary of World War II on Friday, the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, gave the world his “utmost grief” for the “immeasurable damage and suffering” his country caused during the war. However, he noted that apologies have been given in the past and that the present and future generations should not have to repeatedly apologize for the mistakes of past generations.
“Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering.” Abe said in his statement. “When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.”
The Washington Post called Abe’s statement an attempt to “offer something to everyone.”
While he did not offer up his own apology for the war, Prime Minister Abe did say that he upheld the landmark apology the then-prime minister of Japan, Tomiichi Murayama, made in 1995. His words were not enough for China and South Korea, however, which suffered great loss of life and immeasurable damage at the hands of Japanese forces during the second world war.
They had asked in essence for a repeat of Murayama’s words.
“Instead of offering an unambiguous apology,” China’s official news agency, Xinhua, wrote. “Abe’s statement is rife with rhetorical twists like ‘maintain our position of apology’, dead giveaways of his deep-rooted historical revisionism, which has haunted Japan’s neighbourhood relations.”
Xinhua called Abe’s words a “tuned-down apology” that would be “not of much help to eliminating Tokyo’s trust deficit.” The convervative Abe is moving to increase his now-pacifist countries defence policies and combined with his statements, the already-strained relationships in the region may take on even more tension.
“In Japan, the post-war generations now exceed 80 per cent of its population,” Abe said. “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.”
“Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past,” he added.