Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement last Friday on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II expressed “feelings of profound grief” and his condolences for those who died both in Japan and abroad, but it stopped short of offering an apology for Japanese actions, especially against the Chinese and Koreans, against soldiers and civilians alike.  His remarks were forward-looking, noting that Japan will protect those rights that were so brutally abused seventy years ago, as he attempted to move beyond the country’s complicated history.

Abe’s follow-up Q&A with the media offers additional insights into his views on whether the country’s younger generation bears any obligation or responsibility for its history.  The reporter recalls former German President Richard von Weizsäcker’s May 8, 1985 speech, in which he called on all generations to accept the past and keep its memory alive.

Expressing “deep remorse,” Japanese Emperor Akihito also marked the anniversary in a ceremony largely attended by relatives of Japanese soldiers killed during the war.  In another district in Tokyo, however, top Japanese officials visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, regarded by many as a symbol of Japanese war-time aggression.

The legacy of World War II continues to shape Japan’s role in the world today, as noted in this recent report by the Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century and on Japan’s Role and World Order in the 21st Century.+

Friday’s statement is the latest event in reconciliation efforts in Northeast Asia, which AICGS continues to track.  Germany’s successful reconciliation with its former victims continues to offer lessons for other regions and conflicts as we forge ahead in the twenty-first century.

 

Reactions to Prime Minister Abe’s statement:

In China: “Commentary: Abe’s watered-down apology fails sincerity test

In Korea: “South  Korean president says Abe speech contains ‘regrettable elements’

Additional commentary:

Australia’s ABC News: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologetic over WWII, but says next generation not obliged

The Washington Post: “With WWII statement, Japan’s Abe tried to offer something for everyone