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Number 1 Shimbun

Parsing the Prime Minister


The world’s media reacts to PM Shinzo Abe’s address

on the occasion of the end of WWII.

Was it worth the eight months of nail biting?



Abe Focuses On Japan’s “Lessons Learned”

To be sure, the Abe Statement will be scrutinized – and undoubtedly criticized – in the days to come for what he did not say. Before that conversation unfolds, it would be wise to identify what he did say. First, Abe reinforced his country’s commitment to regional reconciliation and the principles of peace outlined in Article Nine of the postwar constitution. Second, he spoke of the “quiet pride” of those postwar Japanese who rebuilt their country, and outlined their continued desire for shared peace and prosperity with their Asian neighbors. Finally, he has also done what no previous prime minister has done – acknowledged with gratitude the tolerance of the very people Japan harmed most deeply in last century’s war, and credited them with his nation’s postwar recovery.

– Sheila A. Smith, the Diplomat


With WWII Statement, Japan’s Abe Tried To Offer Something For Everyone

In his highly anticipated speech Friday marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stopped short of delivering a full-throated apology for his country’s wartime actions – and ended up fully satisfying no one. . . . Harumi Arima, an independent political analyst, said Abe’s 25-minute statement could have been condensed into 30 seconds.

“It would have been so much simpler for them to agree to if he stuck to the key words as requested,” he said. “He squeezed every possible thing into the statement, but that blurred the focus and made me wonder what he really wanted to say.”

– Anna Fifield, the Washington Post


N. Korea Slams Abe Statement For Lack Of Apology

Japan is talking about the future and responsibility and contribution in the international community, without making an apology and reflection on having not yet liquidated the monstrous crimes and unspeakable damage done to the Korean people. It is an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people and an act of deceiving the international community.

– Korean Central News Agency (North Korea)


Japan’s Abe Stops Short Of Apology For World War II

“History is harsh,” he said.             – AP


Japan WW2: PM Shinzo Abe Expresses “Profound Grief”

Mr Abe walked a careful line, maintaining previous apologies, but also saying future generations should not have to go on apologising endlessly. He did not deviate from the now standard wording of Japan’s official apology, but also sought to cast Japan’s 20th-Century history as anti-colonial. Japan’s defeat of Russia in 1905 had, he said, encouraged many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.

He also made it clear he thinks the world cannot continue demanding apologies from Japan forever.

– Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC News


Shinzo Abe Divides Our Region With A Rewrite Of Japan’s War History

Initial English-language media responses to the Abe statement have been muted. Many quote Abe’s expression of “profound grief” and “eternal, sincere condolences,” and his repeated references to the need to “engrave the past in our hearts,” but some suggest that he did not go far enough with his apologies. The White House promptly issued its own statement welcoming Abe’s “commitment to uphold past Japanese government statements on history.” These responses fundamentally misinterpret the nature of the Abe statement. This is not a well-meaning but cautious expression of regret for the war. It is a radically different take on the war which rewrites Japan’s modern history. Japan’s most prominent right-wing revisionist, Fujioka Nobukatsu, certainly got the point: he describes the statement as “nicely crafted,” and expresses his personal sense of relief on reading it.

– Teresa Morris-Suzuki, the Age (Australia)


Abe Stops Short Of Offering Fresh Apology For War

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has expressed remorse for the Second World War in an ambiguously worded statement that will do little to dispel lingering resentment over his country’s actions. . . . “The Abe administration doesn’t think there was anything wrong that Japan did in the war – they just think it was unfortunate that they lost,” said Tessa Morris Suzuki, a professor of modern Japanese history at Australian National University. . . . Mr Abe reluctantly inherited the Murayama Statement, issued in 1995, which carried a “heartfelt apology” and stated that Japan had engaged in a “mistaken national policy.” The prime minister’s own statement, which included references to the millions of Japanese deaths in the war, was nearly three times longer, reflecting his divided loyalties, said Andrew Gordon, a professor of history at Harvard University.

– David McNeill, the Irish Times


Abe “Drowns” Apology In Long Lecture

The tiresome political game forced Abe to say “apology” and “aggression” and several other magical words that he originally wished to exclude, so it seemed he decided that they should come in a lengthy historical lecture by Professor Abe. The statement will hardly have the major influence on developments in the region that some had feared and others had hoped for. In the end, it drowned in its own (many) words.

– Asger Christensen, on Danish radio’s “P1Morgen”


Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Makes Guarded Statement On Wartime Aggression; China And South Korea Remain Sceptical

– The South China Morning Post


Shinzo Abe Echoes Japan’s Past World War II Apologies But Adds None

[Abe] said Japan had practiced “aggression,” a term first used by Mr. Murayama that is disputed by Japanese rightists. Mr. Abe himself had previously questioned the labeling, but it has become too integral to Japan’s position to cut without being accused of revisionism. Along with “colonial rule,” “remorse” and “heartfelt apology,” it was widely seen as an unavoidable term. Thomas Berger, a historian at Boston University, said Mr. Abe’s “sprawling, four-page history lesson” risked giving the impression that he was trying to dilute Japanese responsibility by portraying the war as a “kind of historical tsunami for which no one should be blamed.”

– Jonathan Soble, the New York Times


Abe’s Watered-Down Apology Fails Sincerity Test

The tuned-down apology is not of much help to eliminating Tokyo’s trust deficit. It fails to firm up – if not serving to further undercut – the credibility the Abe government needs to put Japan’s interaction with its Asian neighbors back on track. Thus the “normal country” dream Abe has long been trumpeting gets no closer. The way leading to that goal cannot be paved by reluctance to extend an unalloyed apology for the atrocities committed by imperial Japan.

– Tian Dongdong, Xinhua


An Apology On Points

Abe said that the positions by the previous cabinets would remain unshakable into the future. “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war.” Thus, Abe once again used a trick he often uses. While he says that he upholds the apologies of his predecessors, he carefully avoids uttering them himself.

– Patrick Zoll, Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)


For Japan’s Abe, A Delicate Balancing Act In Expressing “Profound Grief’ For WWII

As he began working his way through his long-awaited speech marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did as many had predicted, expressing “profound grief” over the loss of life and “sincere condolences” to the victims. But sorry, it seemed, was still the hardest word.

– Justin McCurry, the Christian Science Monitor


S. Koreans “Disappointed” With Rhetoric, Absence Of New Apology In Abe Statement

Yang Sun-im, president of the Association for the Pacific War Victims, said Abe might as well not have issued a statement at all. “When he says the future generations won’t have to apologize, he’s essentially saying they can start another war,” Yang said. . . . “Abe is turning his people into warmongers.”

– The Korea Herald


Abe: We’ve Said Sorry Enough Times

As social media users across Asia were quick to point out last night, some of the key expressions of atonement and apology in the Murayama apology were expressed indirectly or in the past, rather than the present, tense. . . . The prime minister referred in euphemistic terms to the so-called “comfort women”, many of them Korean and Chinese, who were forced to work in frontline brothels. . . . “It shows the pain and confusion of the speech writers,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University, and an outspoken critic of Mr Abe. “On the one hand, they are trying not to apologise, and on the other, not to make this too obvious.”

– Richard Lloyd Parry, the Times, (UK)


Abe Statement Fails Sincerity Test

“I would not rate Abe’s statement below 50 on a scale of 1 to 100 although I understand it was not fully satisfactory,” said Yeoul-soo, a professor of international political science at Sungshin Women’s University. “It’s regretful that he did not issue his own apology over Japan’s wartime past.”

Lee Myeon-woo, a senior researcher at Sejong Institute, agreed. “Abe included all four terms that we deemed essential – colonial occupation, invasion, regret and apology – in his statement but it was uncertain whether he was being sincere in his remarks,” he said.

– The Korea Times


Abe: “Profound Grief” For WWII, But Japan Can’t Keep Apologizing



Abe Statement Was Vague In All The Wrong Places

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a hash of his long-anticipated statement on Friday commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. He was vague where he needed to be forthright – on colonialism, aggression and the “comfort women” system – and came up short in expressing contrition by outsourcing his apology to his predecessors. As a result, the Abe statement represents significant backsliding from those issued by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi in 1995 and 2005 that helped Japan and its victims regain some dignity. Furthermore, Abe expressed perpetrator’s fatigue, calling for an end to apology diplomacy. But a recent NHK poll suggests that only 15 percent of the country oppose apology while 42 percent support such gestures, so, yet again, Abe is out of touch with Japanese sentiment.

– Jeff Kingston, the Japan Times


Abe’s “Remorse” For Japan’s Misdeeds Falls On Deaf Ears In Korea

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might have been better off saying nothing than to indicate on the eve of the 70th anniversary that Japanese are fed up with having to apologize and apologize for their role in that terrible period. Abe in his statement no doubt intended to show how deeply he regretted whatever Japan had done during the war and the colonial era, but many Koreans see his remark that Japan “has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war” as suggesting Japanese are tired of saying the same thing.

– Donald Kirk, Forbes


Published in: September 2015

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