Tokyo should stop apologizing over its war record, a majority of voters surveyed in a new poll said, though they were more divided on a World War II anniversary speech that angered China and South Korea.
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed deep remorse over the war and said previous apologies would stand.
However, future generations should not be “predestined” to say sorry for Tokyo’s wartime record, he said on Friday last week.
The poll, published yesterday by the Yomiuri Shimbun, found that 63 percent of those surveyed agreed that Japan should refrain from saying sorry in future, while 27 percent said it should continue.
More than two-thirds of those polled supported Abe’s vow to uphold previous national apologies.
Japan’s neighbors hit out at the closely watched statement by Abe, the grandson of a wartime Cabinet minister, saying he failed to properly atone for Tokyo’s past aggression.
Voters were divided over the speech, according to the weekend poll of 1,761 Japanese households, which found 48 percent had a favorable view of Abe’s speech, against 34 percent who did not.
Despite the controversy, allies, including the US and Britain, applauded Abe’s comments and his plunging popularity appeared to get a boost, rising 2 percentage points to 45 percent.
Since taking power in December 2012, Abe has been criticized for only indirectly echoing his predecessors’ contrition over Japan’s imperial march across Asia in the 20th century.
In a possible jab at Japan’s conservative leader, Japanese Emperor Akihito on Saturday said that he felt “profound remorse” over World War II — a conflict fought in the name of his father, Hirohito.
Japan’s wartime history has come under renewed focus since Abe swept into power, and much speculation had focused on whether he would follow a landmark 1995 statement issued by then-Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama.
Murayama’s statement, which became a benchmark for subsequent apologies, expressed “deep remorse” and a “heartfelt apology” for the “tremendous damage” inflicted.
Hawkish Abe has also faced increasing opposition over security bills that would allow the Japanese troops to engage in combat — to defend an ally under attack — for the first time since the war.
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