Japan's PM may recast war apology
Date: January 2 2013
Barbara Demick, Beijing
NEWLY installed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will revisit a 1995 apology made by his nation's government for suffering caused in World War II.
Although other Japanese officials have suggested retracting apologies for wartime horrors, Monday's words from Mr Abe himself are bound to inflame anti-Japanese sentiment in China and the Korean peninsula and get the new government off to a bad start with neighbours.
In an interview with the conservative Sankei newspaper, Mr Abe noted that the 1995 statement had come from the prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, of a socialist party. ''I want to issue a forward-looking statement that is appropriate for the 21st century,'' he said.
Mr Abe became Prime Minister last week following the landslide election victory of his Liberal Democratic Party. A leading hawk who served an earlier term as prime minister, Mr Abe is viewed with hostility in China and South Korea because of his unrepentant attitude about World War II.
In particular, he has denied that the ''comfort women'' provided to Japanese troops during the war were forced into sexual servitude. That is a most sensitive issue in South Korea, where women now in their 80s and 90s regularly protest outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul over the lack of a proper apology and restitution.
''What's important for us is not money but to restore the dignity of the comfort women whose womanhood and humanity were destroyed by Japan's acts,'' read an editorial on Monday in South Korea's JoongAng Daily.
South Korea elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye, on December 19, and she had been cool about receiving an envoy from Mr Abe in part because of concern over the comfort women issue.
In recent days, other Japanese officials have suggested backtracking on earlier apologies. The Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said the government might revise another apology, issued in 1993, that specifically addressed comfort women.
Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura, a conservative, has said he wants to dramatically overhaul the way history is taught in Japanese schools.
''I am not saying that we need to go back to pre-war [nationalism], but we need to teach our children the more than 2000- year history of Japan's wonderful traditions and culture,'' he told The Japan Times.
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