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Int'l community disappointed by Abe's speech in U.S. Congress

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's address in the U.S. Congress has come under fire from the international community as his "historic" show indicated that Japan would no longer offer sincere apology for its aggression and atrocities during World War II.

In such a well-prepared speech delivered to U.S. lawmakers Wednesday, Abe unveiled his historical revisionism ideology by using "actions" instead of "aggression and colonial rule," and "deep remorse" rather than "heartfelt apology," in an apparent effort to dilute, cover up and whitewash the country's wartime atrocities.

Abe's planned statement on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII this summer has already triggered grave concerns from neighboring countries such as China and South Korea since the hawkish Japanese leader hinted that he would not repeat such key words used by his predecessors.

According to a latest poll conducted by Japan's Kyodo News Agency, 50.5 percent of the 1,020 respondents said Abe should write Japan's "remorse and apology" for its past "colonial rule and aggression" in his landmark statement in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, which were omitted in his speeches to the U.S. Congress and the Asian-African Summit in Indonesia.

The approving rate for the Abe administration declined 2.7 percent from the previous poll to 52.7 percent, showed the survey published Thursday.

Abe's U.S. visit, which started Sunday in Boston, has been accompanied by protests all the way by former "comfort women" and Asian American groups, who demanded he sincerely apologize for Japan's war crimes. Now his speech has also drawn criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and experts, who said the Japanese premier missed an important opportunity to be more direct in addressing Japan's wartime atrocities.

Before Abe's U.S. visit, some had pinned hopes on the U.S. host to prod him to offer an apology in his public remarks as well as the scheduled speech in August, but Abe's latest remarks have demonstrated that this is nothing but a wishful thinking.

"Regarding whether Abe will apologize in the 70th anniversary speech, he is already testing the water at various fora," said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center.

"He (Abe) has been using basically the same language when he spoke recently at Canberra, Bandung, and yesterday at the White House... As a result, I am afraid Abe will not use the word 'apology' or 'sorry' in his anniversary speech. He may choose the word 'remorse' as was used consistently in his recent open remarks," Zhao told Xinhua.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said she was not optimistic that Abe will use his August speech to seek reconciliation with Japan's neighbors in regard to the war past.

Observers say the U.S. tolerance and accommodation of Japan's distorted historical views are largely blamed for Tokyo's tough stance on its wartime past and refusal to apologize in disregard of the indisputable facts.x Though the U.S. itself also suffered heavy casualties from Japan's brutal attacks during that war, Washington has been blinded by its miscalculated strategy to contain China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, by turning Japan into an ally.

If Abe fails to sincerely apologize for Japan's war crimes in his anniversary speech in August, it is certain that renewed tensions would occur in Tokyo's relations with its neighboring countries, said analysts.

"Reconciliation across the generations is a challenging task. It is not simply about apologizing about the past, it is about building a new basis of trust and confidence in the relationship today," Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japanese studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, told Xinhua.

South Korea expressed strong regret Thursday over Abe's speech to U.S. lawmakers as he avoided apologizing for and mentioning wartime atrocities.

"It is very regrettable that there was neither sincere apology nor (right) perception (of history) in Japanese Prime Minister Abe's speech in U.S. Congress," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abe's speech could have become a turning point for Japan to reconcile and cooperate with neighboring countries "in earnest" based on the right perception of history, but Abe failed to grasp this opportunity, said the statement.

If Japan wants to contribute to world peace as mentioned in Abe's speech, it would be important for Japan to honestly acknowledge and repent its wartime past to gain trust and reconciliation from the international community. However, Abe's words and actions were in a stark contrast to these calls, the ministry said.

It urged Japan to squarely face its own history of colonial rule and aggression as well as the atrocious crimes against "comfort woman" victims to go down the path of reconciliation and cooperation with neighboring countries based on right perception of history.

Abe's speech was "less than rousing," said Britain's Financial Times in a commentary on Thursday. "To American ears, Mr. Abe's words were those of a strong ally, regretful of its militaristic past on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific. But to Japan's Asian neighbors, Mr. Abe offered nothing new," it noted.

There was no advance on previous apologies over Japan's treatment of wartime "comfort women" or reassurances that he would reverse the trend towards historical revisionism in Japanese textbooks. In that sense, Abe's speech was disappointing, said the article.

"Until Japan is accepted as a fully repentant power by its neighbors, including China, Mr. Abe's utility as a U.S. ally will be double-edged," it stressed.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 01May15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 06May15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.