1995 Murayama apology key to Asia reconciliation

The China Post news staff

On Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech broke nearly twenty years of precedent in which the leader of Japan offered “profound remorse” for causing suffering in the terrible war. Abe’s decision to omit the reference is worrying because it may fuel confrontation. It is important for Japan to convince skeptical neighbors that it remains deeply committed to reconciliation for the horrors of war. However, this is also an opportunity for a significant population in the nations hurt by the war, especially China, South Korea, and Taiwan, to actually look into the apologies that Japan has made as a nation. One of the most significant apologies is the Murayama Statement of 1995, which should be recognized by all sides, including the current Japanese government, as a critical starting point for reconciliation regarding Japan’s responsibility for wartime destruction and suffering.

The key passage in former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama’s speech runs thus: “During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.” The statement was based on a Cabinet Decision, meaning it represented the official position of the Japanese government. The statement on the half-century mark of the war’s end served as the basis for successive Japanese government declarations of regret on Aug. 15. The intertwined issues of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and reparations for comfort women are still boiling over, as they have clearly not been addressed to the satisfaction of all parties. Unfortunately, national sentiments on these highly sensitive issues have been manipulated by politicians on all sides to the detriment of understanding between peoples. The definition and substance of reconciliation, and what victimized peoples require of Japan, should be gradually resolved by first overcoming technical maneuvers by politicians, who often distort or sensationalize actions or omissions by the other side for political interest or standing.