Some key phrases in the statement issued Friday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II expressed his originality and distinctiveness as he inherited the past statements by former prime ministers.
Abe incorporated key words - such as "gratitude" and "proactive contribution to peace" - in his statement, which had not been used in either of the statements by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi made to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the war's end, respectively.
Murayama issued his statement in 1995 as he sought postwar reconciliation with China, South Korea and other countries, to which he attached a great deal of importance. For this reason, the main parts of his statement were about Japan's past acts during wartime.
In that statement, Murayama said Japan must "promote international coordination as a responsible member of the international community," and "actively strive to further global disarmament." Concerning the future role of Japan, Murayama said, "In this way alone can Japan atone for its past."
Koizumi, for his part, inherited the Murayama statement in the first part of his own, and referred in the latter half mainly to the situation surrounding Japan 60 years after the end of the war as well as Japan's role in the future.
According to a source who was involved in drafting the Koizumi statement, he initially said he would "keep Japan's historical perceptions in the same way as stated in the Murayama statement," and also said he "needed to emphasise the country's 60 years of postwar peace."
Meanwhile, Abe had been said to take a negative stance about incorporating such wording as "aggression" and "apology."
Because of this, Abe only said he would inherit "as a whole" the past statements of the prime ministers. In reality, in his statement Friday, he only mentioned the fact that former cabinets expressed an "apology."
"Prime Minister Abe himself shied away from making a direct apology," said a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The new key phrases he used in the statement include "deep repentance," "gratitude" and "proactive contribution to peace."
Repentance means acknowledging one's past deeds were wrong and regretting them. By choosing wording that invokes a more grave meaning than "remorse," Abe intended to seek the understanding of China and South Korea, observers said.
In the statement, Abe used the phrase, "heartfelt gratitude," while mentioning how China dealt with those Japanese left behind in the country during the closing days of the war, and that former prisoners of wars of Western countries have visited Japan and prayed for the souls of the war dead on both sides.
Murayama briefly touched on his gratitude to foreign countries in his statement, but Koizumi did not express gratitude.
Abe referred to "proactive contribution to peace" as he described Japan's commitment to international contribution, and inherited Murayama's appeal to the world for the elimination of nuclear weapons.