Panel should comprehensively discuss Japan's 21st-century world vision

We hope the discussion at an advisory panel will help Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bring forth a future-oriented message, taking into account the path Japan followed over the 70 years since the end of World War II.

"The Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century and on Japan's Role and the World Order in the 21st Century" held its first meeting on Wednesday.

The panel is tasked with advising Abe on a statement he will issue on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war this summer.

The 16 members of the private advisory panel to the prime minister represent various sectors including business, academia and mass media. Japan Post Holdings Co. President Taizo Nishimuro has assumed the chair.

The panel will meet once a month and will draw together their views and make a report to Abe this summer.

The report, however, is to be used as reference for the government to study the content of the statement. Abe is said to intend to compile the statement on his own, after considering the final results of these discussions and study.

In his opening remarks at the panel's meeting, Abe referred to the course Japan followed over the 70 years since the war, saying, "Based on its remorse regarding World War II, Japan has ... been contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region."

He also emphasised: "Japan has upheld its major responsibilities through economic cooperation for developing countries. The path Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation will remain unchanged."

To win the understanding of the international community, it is important for a future-oriented statement to properly take into account this nation's remorse regarding its conduct before and during the war and the path it followed in the postwar years.

Focus on the future

With regard to the course of action for Japan to take in the 21st century, Abe said that Japan "will make still greater contributions towards international peace and prosperity and safeguard people's well-being, under the flag of 'Proactive Contribution to Peace' based on the principle of international cooperation."

What kind of roles is Japan resolved to play in maintaining and promoting the peace and prosperity of Asia and of the world? How will Japan cooperate with the international community, including its ally, the United States?

It is important for the 70th anniversary statement to come up with clear-cut principles and concrete measures.

The international environment surrounding Japan has greatly changed, when compared with the times the previous statements were made - one by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th anniversary of the war's end and one by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the 60th anniversary.

China has gained power both economically and militarily, reinforcing its international influence. Regarding the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and differences in historical perceptions, bilateral antagonism has escalated between Japan and China.

And bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea have become chilly over such issues as the so-called comfort women.

As China has begun full-fledged anti-Japan propaganda this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Abe's statement is likely to be factored into China's propaganda drive in connection with historical perceptions.

Abe needs to respond in a level-head manner and strategically, by taking into account of these international developments.

The new panel is expected to take up five themes for discussion. One is "Over the 70 years since the end of World War II, what kind of path has Japan followed with regard to reconciliation [with other countries]?"

Another is "Based on the lessons of the 20th century, what sort of vision do you envisage for Asia and the world in the 21st century?"

At the first meeting, a panel member reportedly said, "We should not view Japan and the world disconnectedly." We hope for the panel to discuss these themes from a multifaceted perspective.