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News Analysis: Abe tests water for August WWII 70th anniversary speech in U.S. visit

(Xinhua)    11:45, April 30, 2015

WASHINGTON, April 29 -- With his visit to the U.S., Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is testing the water for a much-awaited speech in August to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and anyone who expects a clear apology from him is most probably to be disappointed.

Defying calls from victims and some Asian countries, Abe has intentionally avoided offering a clear apology during the visit for the wartime atrocities committed by Japanese troops during WWII, who ravaged a large part of the Asia-Pacific region.

"Our actions brought suffering to the...peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that. I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard," Abe said in a speech Wednesday morning to the joint session of U.S. Congress.

But he purposely stopped short of repeating the statements issued by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995, and by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005, which used terms such as "heartfelt apology" for Japan's "colonial rule and aggression."

To please his host, though, the rightist Japanese leader did mention his recent visit to the WWII memorial in Washington D.C., and "offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II."

Responding to a media question about whether he would apologize on the issue of "comfort women" at the joint news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Abe once again declined to offer an apology except for saying that he was "deeply pained" to think about the "comfort women," which he wrongly described as victims of "human trafficking."

He was simply repeating what he said Monday in response to a question about "comfort women" after making a speech at Harvard University in Boston. He just said "heart aches" when he thinks about the women who were "victimized by human trafficking" and who were subject to "immeasurable pain and suffering."

"Comfort women" is a euphemism for the hundreds of thousands of females, mainly from Asian countries, including China and the Korean Peninsula then colonized by Japan, who were forced into sex slavery by Imperial Japanese troops during the war.


Notoriously known for its revisionist views on history, the Abe government has denied the existence of "comfort women," revised textbooks to whitewash Japan's WWII brutal aggression and atrocities, and paid repeated homage visits to a shrine housing convicted war criminals, despite angry protests from neighboring countries such as China and South Korea.

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.

"I'm certain he will say something, but whether he will express remorse, regret, apology or something else remains to be seen," Glaser told Xinhua.

"For many reasons, it would be beneficial if Prime Minister Abe were willing and able to put this issue to rest, to reconcile with his neighbors and resolve this issue once and for all. I'm not optimistic that will occur, however," she added.

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.


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.

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.

With China rising rapidly both economically and militarily in the past decades, the U.S. has increasingly regarded China as a growing threat to its dominance in the Asia- Pacific region.

This explained the fact that the Obama administration, instead of exerting pressure on Abe to revise his nationalist views and make an apology, awarded him with a much-desired gift during his visit by producing the newly revised Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation.

"Japan sees increased threats to its security, from China and North Korea. This is one of the drivers of the new defense guidelines," Glaser noted."

The new guidelines have lifted geographical restrictions on Japan's military activities, which were limited to its adjacent areas in the past, thus virtually freeing Japan from the shackles of the post-war Pacifist Constitution imposed by the U.S..

Japan and the U.S. also pledged to strengthen military cooperation in dealing with emerging threats in areas of cyber, space and climate change, as well as maritime disputes including the China-Japan dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea and the disputes between China and several southeastern Asian countries in the South China Sea.

"The U.S.-Japan security cooperation must take into account the changes wrought by a growing military role by China in the region," Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japanese studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Xinhua.

"The island dispute between Japan and China has concerned the Japanese people, and the U.S. and Japanese governments want to ensure that an inadvertent incident won't result in an escalation of tensions. North Korea's nuclear and missile proliferation, of course, has created perhaps the most concern for over a decade," Smith added.

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.

"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," Smith said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Gao Yinan,Bianji)

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