JAKARTA - In a speech widely viewed as helping lay the foundation for his upcoming statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned one closely watched-for word but omitted another and refrained from presenting his own historical perception.
Speaking Wednesday at the Asian-African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference (See below), in Jakarta, Abe only uttered the word "aggression" from the declaration adopted 60 years ago, and plans to continue to carefully consider the wording of the statement he will issue this summer.
During his about six-minute speech in Japanese, Abe directly used the word "aggression," one of the keywords observers had been watching for to gauge the prime minister's position on historical perception. However, in this case, it was not a word chosen by Abe himself. Rather, he was quoting from the 10-point declaration on the promotion of world peace and co-operation adopted at the first Bandung Conference in 1955.
Following the quotes, the prime minister went on to express "deep remorse" over the past war and emphasised that Japan had walked the path of a peace-loving nation since the war ended.
Abe's speech in Jakarta was positioned as the first opportunity for him to display his own perceptions on history to an audience overseas, ahead of his World War II anniversary statement.
The statement issued in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, and the statement issued in 2005 by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to mark the 60th anniversary, both expressed "remorse" and an "apology" for Japan's "colonial rule and aggression."
Abe believes using the word "remorse" will be necessary in his upcoming statement. However, he appears to have a negative view on including the words "apology" and "aggression." He has stated the "definition of what constitutes aggression has yet to be established." Regarding the word "apology," he once told his inner circle, "Japan will end up having to continue apologising even 80 years or 100 years after the war."
Given Abe's intentions on this issue, close aides who helped craft his speech given Wednesday apparently got a little creative and decided to use the wording used in Bandung's 10 peace principles. By mentioning "aggression" and combining it with an expression of remorse regarding World War II, "It could also be taken as reflecting on this aggression," a close aide of the prime minister said. "He went quite far with his choice of expression."
However, the prime minister did not include the word "apology" in his speech.
A government source revealed that this speech "was partly aimed at checking the reaction in Japan and overseas" to the choice of expressions pertaining to historical issues, as Abe prepares his statement to mark the end of the war.
Abe is scheduled to address a joint session of the US Congress on April 29. That speech also is expected to help set the stage for the 70th anniversary statement.
A group of experts tasked with helping Abe craft the statement held their fourth meeting Wednesday at the Prime Minister's Office. Abe plans to carefully consider the final text of his speech based on the views put forward by these experts and the reactions from within Japan and abroad.
China and South Korea are closely watching every development regarding Abe's speech.
"We are not demanding that the prime minister include specific words," Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua said during an address given in Tokyo on Wednesday. "But will he show sufficient remorse regarding the past war? That's how we will judge if he is showing sincerity."
In a separate event, South Korean Ambassador to Japan Yoo Heung Soo said, "How people perceive the statement will be determined by whether it includes the three keywords of 'aggression,' 'colonial rule' and 'remorse.'"
The Bandung Conference was first held in 1955 in the city of Bandung in western Java, Indonesia. Its 29 member nations and regions were mainly former colonies in Asia and Africa that had become independent after World War II.
Led by Indonesian President Sukarno and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, the conference adopted a 10-point declaration on promoting world peace and co-operation, which included the principles of refraining from political interference in another nation and settling disputes by peaceful means.