Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed a draft of his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II to his conservative supporters and sought their understanding a few days before it was issued on Friday, it was learned.
The statement, in which Abe mentioned the words "remorse" and "apology," was based on a draft written by people close to him, text the prime minister dictated orally, and a report compiled by the Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century and on Japan's Role and World Order in the 21st Century.
Many twists and turns were taken before a final version was reached.
In mid-June, people close to Abe presented him with a draft that included what would become four key words and phrases in the final statement: aggression, apology, colonial rule and deep remorse.
After reading it, Abe said he would wait to see the report from the advisory panel before deciding, sources said.
Abe initially did not want the statement to be based on a Cabinet decision. Instead, he wanted it to stand as his personal views on the anniversary. Given the wishes of his conservative base, his aim was to rewrite former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's 50th anniversary statement, which emphasized an apology for the war, the sources said.
Then on June 22, Abe decided to extend the Diet session significantly, until Sept. 27, to address pending legislation related to national security. This forced him to take a different approach. As the Diet would now be in session in August when the statement was to be released, pressure from the opposition parties could be expected.
Without a Cabinet decision, the opposition would likely claim there was disagreement within the administration over the statement, and make other such criticisms. To avoid this, Abe changed course and decided to seek Cabinet approval of the statement as an official government opinion.
As most people in Japan were born after the war, Abe has a strong desire to put an end to the continual apologies to Asian countries, the sources said.
Abe reexamined his views on history by reading the memoirs of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi discussed the war at a press conference in May 1957 ahead of his first diplomatic trip abroad. "It is a fact that Japan inflicted much trouble on the nations of Asia. With a humble attitude, I would like to cooperate with these countries," he said. Abe until then had repeatedly expressed negative views about apologizing for the war. But reading this made him think he could halt the cycle of apologies by taking an apologetic attitude himself, the sources said.
The trouble with this approach was how it would be seen by his conservative base.
Conservative pundits including Terumasa Nakanishi, professor emeritus of Kyoto University, and Saitama University Prof. Emeritus Michiko Hasegawa were wary of the statement taking on a more apologetic tone. Nakanishi, as a member of the historical advisory panel, is said to have adamantly opposed including the word "aggression" in the report.
If Abe's conservative supporters were to criticize the statement, it could diminish his influence. So a few days before the Cabinet decision, Abe quietly showed a draft of the statement to conservative thinkers and Diet members and asked for their understanding.
When Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi saw the statement, she was reportedly shocked, saying to Abe, "What is 'apology' doing in here?"
To this Abe was quoted as replying, "This is the best I can do."