Japan’s increasingly nationalistic government is backing away from suggestions that it would try to revise its official apologies for World War II.
Those apologies were made two decades ago to atone for Imperial Japan’s aggression during the war. Tokyo formally apologized in 1993 to the women who were forced into wartime brothels for Japanese soldiers. And then in 1995, the government apologized to nations that suffered from Japanese atrocities.
But ultra-nationalist conservative voting base resented both of these actions, and there have been serious concerns that hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would try to whitewash history, especially because of his campaign promises made last year.
This sparked concerns shared by Japan’s East Asian neighbors and by the United States. Washington needs Japan to cooperate with South Korea in the face of North Korea’s nuclear build-up and China’s asserting itself further into regional territorial disputes. Tokyo needs Washington for.. well, everything.
Last week, former American ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer said that revising the 1993 apology to the women could damage Japanese ties to the United States, Tokyo’s great protector. That apparently got Abe’s attention.
Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida said, “The Japanese government has accepted the facts of history in a spirit of humility, expressed once again our feelings of deep remorse and our heartfelt apology.”
At a separate news conference, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, said the Abe government would not revise the 1993 apology, which formally recognized the military’s responsibility in forcing women into sexual slavery.