In a much-watched televised speech a day before Japan marked 70 years since its defeat in World War II on August 15, 1945, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his “deepest remorse” and “sincere condolences” to Japan’s wartime victims, but—much to China’s disappointment—he didn’t give an original apology and added that future generations should not have to burdened by saying sorry.
In his speech, Abe walked a fine line between offering regret over Japan’s wartime aggression while avoiding apologizing and instead pointed toward Japan’s more recent pacifist record:
On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences. We must never again repeat the devastation of war.
Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.
Japan has repeatedly expressed feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war… we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.
Such positions articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.
Abe went on to say that with Japan’s post-war generations now exceeding 80 percent of the population:
“We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.”
“Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past.”
As you might imagine, China wasn’t terribly happy with this not apology and a number of party mouthpieces issued editorials criticizing Abe’s speech calling it a “watered-down apology” that doesn’t pass the “sincerity test.” Certainly not the kind of address that Robot Abe would have given.
Xinhua accused Abe of resorting to “linguistic tricks” in an attempt to prevent further damaging Japan’s relationship with Beijing while also appeasing Japanese nationalists who make up his support base.
Instead of offering an unambiguous apology, Abe’s statement is rife with rhetorical twists like ‘maintain our position of apology’ – dead giveaways of his deep-rooted historical revisionism, which has haunted Japan’s neighborhood relations.
By adding that it is unnecessary for Japan’s future generations to keep apologising, Abe seemed to say that his once-for-all apology can close the page of history. However, those countries which suffered from Japan’s aggression would never forget that dark period of history, as Japanese would always remember the horrific scenes of A-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 15, 2015
Editorial: Abe’s WWII speech sticks to glib words http://t.co/QmMASVHiSd
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 15, 2015
Will Chinese President Xi Jinping somehow manage to throw more shade Abe’s way upon their next meeting?