- Prime Minister Abe, No Mention of "Regret"
- By Seo Ui-dong Tokyo Correspondent, Oh Gwan-cheol Beijing Correspondent, Yu Shin-mo phil21@kyunghyang.
Members of "a group of lawmakers who pay their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine" follow a priest at the shrine, located in Tokyo, to pay their respects on August 15, the day of Japan's surrender. / Tokyo, Reuters
In a speech during the memorial at Tokyo Budokan, with the Emperor and Empress of Japan present, Prime Minister Abe said that he would be humble before history and cherish the lessons he needed to learn. But Kyodo News reported that he did not mention the "wartime aggression and regret," which his predecessors have expressed at the August 15 memorial service since Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1994. He also omitted a pledge against war, which was present in the prime minister's speech at the memorial each year.
This is expected to stir controversy, for it can be interpreted as a denial of the Murayama statement, which expressed regret and conveyed an apology for Japan's colonial rule and aggression. Japan's former prime ministers have expressed their self-reflection on the past war each year at this memorial, mentioning how they caused losses and pain to the citizens of Asian countries. In an interview with Kyodo News this day, former Prime Minister Murayama criticized Prime Minister Abe claiming that he should have expressed regret toward the other countries in his speech.
Three of Abe's cabinet members, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Yoshitaka Shindo, Minister in charge of Abduction Issue Keiji Furuya, and Minister in charge of Administrative Reform Tomomi Inada and more than 100 lawmakers paid their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 class-A war criminals of the Pacific War are enshrined. Prime Minister Abe had his party's aide offer tribute in the name of the "leader of the Liberal Democratic Party" from Abe's personal account instead of making a personal visit.
Although Prime Minister Abe did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine, he revealed a lack of self-reflection on history, which in turn is expected to present a challenge in restoring relations with South Korea and China.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Cho Tae-young released a comment on the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese cabinet members and lawmakers stating, "Japan's leading politicians and some cabinet members are once again visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and paying their respects in various ways, which shows that they continue to turn a blind eye on history."
China's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin called the Japanese Ambassador to China to the foreign ministry office and protested, and the foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei criticized the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine calling it "an overt challenge to historical justice and the conscience of mankind."