Abe Coalition Partner Urges War Statement That Won’t Upset China

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II must not undermine ties with China, an official from the ruling-party’s coalition partner said.

Yoshihisa Inoue, secretary general of the pacifist Komeito party, said in an interview Wednesday that Abe should ensure that the Japanese public and people overseas understand he upholds past apologies for the conflict. Inoue cited the recent thaw in relations with China as one reason for Abe to clearly express Japan’s remorse.

“The prime minister should explain honestly how our country has walked the path of peace for 70 years, based on deep remorse over the past war, and will continue on the path of peace in future,” Inoue said in Tokyo. “Momentum is building for an improvement in ties with China and nothing must be allowed to reverse that. Both sides should make efforts.”

Abe has said he upholds past apologies for the war, but sees no need to reiterate them in his own statement to mark the Aug. 15 anniversary. His choice of words could affect ties with China and South Korea, which have been damaged by wrangling over Japan’s colonial history and territorial disputes.

Japan’s ties with China have gradually warmed in recent months after a 2012 dispute over the sovereignty of East China Sea islands flared and caused the worst bilateral crisis in four decades. Abe met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last November, signaling an improvement that promises better trade, investment and security ties.

In an April speech at the Asian-African Summit in Jakarta, Abe referred to Japan’s “deep remorse” over the war, but didn’t apologize or describe his country’s past misdeeds as predecessors did on the 50th and 60th anniversaries. He held his second meeting with Xi the same day.

In a meeting with visiting Abe envoy Shotaro Yachi in Beijing last month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Japan to “keep its commitments on historical issues, treat seriously the concerns of the victimized countries in Asia and properly handle relevant issues with a responsible attitude,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

Inoue also said the Abe’s war statement must be one the Buddhist-backed coalition partner can support, whether or not it’s formally approved by the Japanese cabinet.

“Consensus is needed between the ruling parties,” Inoue said. “It will be the government view, so the ruling parties that support the government will also bear responsibility.”

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