Editorial: Abe’s WWII speech sticks to glib words

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-14 22:18:09

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew global attention on Friday in one of Japan’s biggest moments in recent years. But there is nothing to be proud of, as the world is inspecting the trustworthiness of the Japanese government over historical issues. 

Abe made a speech to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII on Friday evening. After all the controversy over the draft of his speech, in the end he mentioned the key words “apology,” “remorse,” “colonial,” “aggression,” only to meet the minimum demands of China, South Korea and the international community. 

However, Abe avoided directly apologizing to Asian countries, but instead said  “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war,” while adding that “Such a position, articulated by the previous cabinets, will remain unshakable in the future.”

Global reactions have been complicated, with many believing Abe has carefully arranged the wording of his “apology.” 

Others noticed Abe’s line that said “We must not let our children … who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.” 

Abe tried to set Japan’s colonial rule under the context of prevailing Western colonial rules at that time, so as to water down Japan’s acts. 

Abe has less than willingly inherited a few key words from the statement of the former Japanese leader Tomiichi Murayama. But he has failed to inherit the relatively earnest attitude. Apparently, Abe had no intent to make a heartfelt apology. The inclusion of those words was a result of compromise under pressures from home and abroad. His speech also addressed some conservative sentiments in Japanese society.

The speech will not trigger a worsening of Sino-Japanese ties, nor will it help to significantly improve the relations. The play of words provides chances of various interpretation. But after the contradictory interpretations offset each other, what is left may be basically nothing. 

The persistence of China, South Korea and other countries in historical issues have had some effect, forcing Abe not to go too far away from the Murayama statement. But Abe’s speech may only mean a draw in the wrestling match. The future of China-Japan relations remains uncertain. 

Japan has been playing smart in a speech that should have shown a clear choice of values. The world has been drawn to Abe’s show, but the impressions are not likely to be positive. 

It has been 70 years after the war, but when Germany and Italy has shrugged off their historical burden, Japan is still having trouble, which may continue to the next generation. No one else is to blame. It is a choice made by the Japanese government.

Posted in: Editorial

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