Japan should issue apology to Asian states, ex-PM says

Japan should issue apology to Asian states, ex-PM says
Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

Japan should again apologise to other Asian countries for its wartime behaviour, according to the country's former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama.

This would help it to review its past and stop history from repeating itself, he said in his home city of Oita in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

Japan needs to continually consider its past, he said, adding, "It's important for Japan to reflect on history."

In 1995, when Murayama was head of the Socialist Party and led a coalition with the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, he made a "heartfelt apology" for the wartime damage and suffering caused by Japan's "colonial rule" and "aggression".

The apology became known as the Murayama Statement and was regarded as an expression of conscience.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed to uphold previous statements, including Murayama's, in speeches at the Bandung conference in Indonesia and at the US Congress in Washington in April.

The LDP leader spoke about "deep remorse", but stopped short of repeating the keywords in the earlier statements-apology, colonial rule and aggression.

Junji Tachino, deputy director of the editorial board of Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, criticised Abe for continuing to display different faces to the US and Asia.

In a letter sent to Abe on Monday, a group of 187 scholars of Japanese and East Asian studies called on Japan to accurately address its history of colonial rule and wartime actions, particularly the exploitation of the so-called comfort women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

The scholars include Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Dower and Ezra Vogel, professor emeritus of history at Harvard University and author of the 1979 best-seller Japan As No. 1: Lessons for America.

Murayama is a tenacious defender of Japan's pacifist Constitution. He criticised the Abe administration for capitalizing on territorial disputes to inflame a fear of China among the people of Japan.

The administration is using tension over the Diaoyu Islands as a pretext for amending Japan's Constitution.

Murayama said rewriting the Constitution would change the nature of Japan and the defence-only policy, and added, "It is unacceptable that a Cabinet reinterprets the Constitution at will."

In July, Abe's Cabinet reinterpreted the Constitution to give a right to collective self-defence, or defending an ally under armed attack even when Japan is not under threat.

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