About 60 politicians, including Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi and Japanese Minister of State for Disaster Management Eriko Yamatani, walked down the shrine’s stone path yesterday, along with thousands of other visitors.
In contrast to Abe’s expression on Friday of “utmost grief” at Japan’s war actions, Emperor Akihito, who as the monarch is above politics, yesterday strayed from his usual script and offered “deep remorse”.
Speaking at South Korea’s commemoration ceremony on Saturday, Ms Park said Mr Abe’s remarks “left much to be desired”.
In the view of Davide Rossi, a historian and director of Italy’s Institute of History and Philosophy of Contemporary Thought, Japan’s actions are characterized by an idea of “Japanese superiority” which has led it “to be the natural ally of European fascism and to practice a form of authoritarian and particularly brutal imperialism”. “We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future”.
For decades, Japan has made repeated apologies, with some prime ministers personally expressing regrets for the nation’s aggression in the war. Some want an apology for the huge civilian casualties Japan sustained under US aerial bombing, which climaxed with the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Before the speech, Japanese media had speculated whether Mr Abe would follow a landmark 1995 statement by then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama. But ultimately, South Korea’s reaction to Abe’s statement will be more important in this equation than Washington’s.
The Abe statement was a product of hard work as it contained essential words and phrases and took into consideration Komeito and neighboring countries as well as the right-wing element, Abe’s main support base.
“We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured”, he said. He said Japan will help make this century one in which “women’s human rights are not infringed upon”.
“Prime Minister Abe himself shied away from making a direct apology”, said a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Only a few dozen of the women are still alive today.
The issue has been top news in Japan, with public broadcaster NHK reporting this week that an original draft of Abe’s statement included the words “apology” and “aggression”, in a possible concession to China and South Korea.
“It is an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people and an act of deceiving the worldwide community”, said a spokesperson for Pyongyang’s foreign ministry. If enacted, the legislation would be a major shift in Japan’s post-World War II exclusively defense-oriented security policy. But many in Seoul feel that real forgiveness begins with Japan presenting a thorough, unambiguous apology backed by the weight of the Japanese parliament. He was longwinded, roundabout, vague and evasive on the historical controversies that have dogged Japan and strained relations with Beijing and Seoul.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement on Saturday, saying the visit, coming on the day marking Japan’s unconditional surrender at the end of World War II, reflects Japan’s wrong attitude on historical facts and its attempt to whitewash Japan’s wrongdoings during the war. The second was of Hidemi Sato, the uncle of one of his friends who had just turned 18 when he died in a kamikaze attack against the US fleet off the southern islands of Okinawa.