Analysing Abe's address in America

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe addressing the US Congress on Wednesday. He drew flak from some observers for his lack of contrition.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe addressing the US Congress on Wednesday. He drew flak from some observers for his lack of contrition.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech to a joint session of the US Congress last week was welcomed in Japan, but drew heated reactions from East Asian neighbours. Below are excerpts from commentaries and newspaper editorials over the weekend.

ABE BETRAYS HISTORY'S CONSCIENCE

Chen Weihua, Deputy Editor,

China Daily US, in China Daily

TO MANY who want right-wing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to clarify his views on history and apologise for the Japanese military's atrocities during World War II, his address to a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday came as a huge disappointment.

In the first such speech by a visiting Japanese prime minister, Mr Abe only expressed remorse over Japan's role in WWII. He did not call the war "aggression" on the part of Japan or mention the coercion used by the Japanese military in the comfort-women outrage, when Asian women were forced into sexual slavery. These are just two of many issues raised by Mr Abe's controversial views on historical facts.

The speech clearly shows that he has not changed his views on this 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. The Japanese prime minister has caused more pain to people in neighbouring countries in the past years by questioning whether WWII constituted an aggression on the part of Japan and denying that coercion was used by the Japanese military in running the appalling comfort-women system.

In his speech, he just kept focusing on Japan's post-WWII role in the world. But Japan's positive contribution to the world in the past decades does not grant Japanese leaders and politicians the right to whitewash history. We have not seen German leaders try to rewrite Nazi history or deny the Holocaust on the grounds that post-war Germany has made great contributions to world peace and prosperity.

If Mr Abe is true to holding the general stance on history of successive Japanese prime ministers, then why it is so difficult for him to say the word "apology" explicitly, or just repeat words in the 1995 apology issued by then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII? Demanding an apology from right-wing Mr Abe is certainly not as outrageous a request as some might think.

While his stubborn revisionist views may be nothing new, it is shocking that US leaders, including President Barack Obama, have chosen this time to collaborate with him, without demanding he make an apology and clarify his views on history. In fact, no senior US officials have touched on Mr Abe's controversial views during his eight-day visit so far.

This is sheer appeasement to Mr Abe and hugely disrespectful to those who sacrificed their lives fighting Japanese militarism during WWII. Clearly, in seeking Japan's support in achieving the US rebalance to Asia strategy and the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, many US politicians have chosen to give Mr Abe a pass on history.

Mr Abe's failure to clarify and correct his troubling views on such an important occasion means that he has definitely not got a pass from the people of China and Korea who suffered most at the hands of Japanese militarism, and know the truth.

ABE FALLS SHORT

Editorial Desk, The Korea Herald

IN HIS historic speech before a joint session of the US Congress, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell short of apologising for Japan's role in World War II and kept mum on the issue of the Japanese Imperial Army's military sexual slavery during the war.

Mr Abe offered his typical vague acknowledgement of Japan's wartime and colonial past and the word "apology" was conspicuously absent in the speech.

"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," he said.

Mr Abe skipped the issue of military sexual slavery altogether, instead saying: "Armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most. In our age, we must realise the kind of world where finally women are free from human rights abuses."

It is an insult to women everywhere that Mr Abe, who has been referring of late to the wartime military sexual slavery as "human trafficking" without mentioning the fact that the Japanese military were the traffickers of as many as 200,000 young women from Asian countries, talks about realising a world free from women's human rights abuses.

A Japan that refuses to acknowledge its past, in the minds of Koreans, still poses the threats that Japan of more than 70 years ago posed.

Mr Abe argues that an apology does not need to be issued repeatedly; but it is his continued fudging on the issue that leads countries in the region to demand an unequivocal statement of acknowledgement of history and apology.

Mr Abe has another chance to prove to the world that Japan is a responsible member of the international community, ready to assume a greater role in world affairs. He can do that by issuing unequivocal apologies about Japan's wartime aggressions and the wartime military sexual slavery in his August speech marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Neither Japan's future nor the region's security should be fettered by history.

ACTION MUST FOLLOW ABE'S ADDRESS IN CONGRESS ON 'ALLIANCE OF HOPE'

Editorial Desk, The Yomiuri Shimbun

ONCE enemies on the battlefield, Japan and the United States have bolstered their bilateral cooperative relationship through postwar reconciliation, and are now poised to further forge an "alliance of hope".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's future-oriented message to this effect seems to have been well conveyed to the US side.

Regarding World War II, Mr Abe expressed his "feelings of deep remorse", adhering to the content of the 1995 statement by then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama on Japan's wartime past.

The speech was received favourably and received a positive response from a great majority of the attendees at the joint session of Congress.

The prime minister also alluded to "deep repentance in my heart" while visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington, as well as to such fundamental values as freedom and democracy, which are shared by Japan and the United States.

The content of his speech, which was said to have moved Americans, and its well-considered word choices can be safely deemed to have been successful. Apparently because Wednesday's speech was delivered to the US Congress, whose main issue of concern was the bilateral Japan-US relationship, the Prime Minister did not refer to "aggression" or "apology".

But in his statement to be released this summer to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war's end, the Prime Minister's own views of history will certainly come under scrutiny.

Should Mr Abe maintain his stance to the effect that the definition of what can be considered aggression "has yet to be fully clarified"?

In this respect, the Prime Minister is urged to be fully aware of critical observers both at home and abroad, and to respond in a rational, strategic manner.

ASIA NEWS NETWORK