Japan does not intend to backtrack on its position on World War II, the government said yesterday, as tensions simmer over fears of revisionism by Tokyo.
“We share the same recognition with the past Cabinets that [Japan] caused tremendous damage and suffering to people in Asia,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary committee.
The comments came after South Korean President Park Geun-hye told a US newspaper that Japan had been reopening old wounds and needed to reflect on history.
Japan’s uneasy relationship with South Korea and China, both of which suffered during the Imperial Japanese Army’s expansionism last century, has worsened in the past year due to a flaring of separate territorial spats.
It has been further affected by nationalist rumblings from the right-of-center government, including pre-election hints that Abe could review apologies Tokyo has made for its past war-making.
However, the administration insisted on Tuesday there would be no rowing back.
Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida said there was no plan to change a 1995 statement that said that Japan “regards with humility these facts of history and expresses deep remorse and heartfelt apology.”
“Prime Minister Abe has the same recognition,” Kishida said.
The landmark pronouncement by then-Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama was seen as a vital step in what many said was Japan finally starting to come to terms with its wartime history.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said on Tuesday there was no plan to change a 1993 apology for the sexual enslavement of so-called “comfort women” during World War II.
Park said in an interview with the Washington Post that “the Japanese have been opening past wounds and have been letting them fester, and this applies not only to Korea, but also to other neighboring countries.”
“This arrests our ability to really build momentum, so I hope that Japan reflects upon itself,” Park said, stressing the need for regional cooperation to address crises related to North Korea and the importance of avoiding “tensions among Japan, China and other countries in the region.”