(Reuters) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will include the words “apology” and “aggression” in his statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, NHK public TV said, an apparent nod to critics who fear he will dilute past apologies.
An initial draft did not include the word “apology”, some media reports had said, which would likely anger China and South Korea where bitter memories of Japan’s sometimes brutal past occupation and colonization run deep.
Abe is juggling conflicting priorities in crafting the statement, expected to be approved by his cabinet one day before the Aug. 15 anniversary. He needs to satisfy the desire of close ally the United States to ease tension in East Asia.
He also wants to maintain an incipient thaw in ties with rival China, as he eyes a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that one close aide said was likely in September.
However, the conservative Abe’s core supporters want to end what they see as a humiliating cycle of apologies they say distracts from Japan’s seven decades of post-war peace.
Abe has said he will uphold past statements about the war, including then-premier Tomiichi Murayama’s 1995 landmark “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s aggression and colonialism. But his previous remarks and stated desire to look to the future have raised concerns he wants to water down those apologies.
NHK said a draft of Abe’s statement would refer specifically to the Murayama statement’s key phrases “apology”, “deep remorse”, “aggression” and “colonial rule”, but the broadcaster did not elaborate on the phrasing.