Retired politician Yohei Kono, formerly a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and served as Chief Cabinet Secretary in the 1990’s under then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, was the one of the main authors of Japan’s most comprehensive apology to other Asian nations regarding World War II and the infamous “comfort women” war brothel system – in fact the “Kono Statement” bears his name. Kono, in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, said that it is to Japan’s disadvantage that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also of the right-leaning LDP, has been trying to downplay Japan’s aggressive actions during WWII, which to him has hurt the country’s image internationally.
Kono said in the interview that Abe’s intention of revising Japan’s two standing apologies — including a 1995 statement expressing regret for Japan’s wartime aggression and commitment to peace— will risks decades of relations with China and South Korea, as well as other Asian countries. Kono is of the opinion that if Abe changes the apologies in the way the LDP is leaning towards the right at this time, “Japan will be isolated from the international community. That much is clear,” the 76-year-old former politician said. “I’m afraid Abe is underestimating the possible impact of his comments,” he added. Kono in his time was a relatively liberal politician within the conservative LDP. Most people say that it is commendable for one in his position then to have been able to craft what has come to be called the “Kono Statement” – where Japan apologized for “immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” inflicted on thousands of “comfort women” from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Netherlands.
This statement, read publicly on August 4, 1993, has been Japan’s most thorough apology on the matter, winning praise in Asia and elsewhere globally. Recently though, this statement has faced strong criticism from Japanese conservatives, mostly from the LDP, and Kono says it threatens the warm ties with other countries that was built upon the foundation of the 1993 apology. Kono is also wary of the effect of recent nationalistic actions by very prominent Japanese politicians and its effect on Japanese diplomacy. To him, Prime Minister Abe has upset China and South Korea by repeatedly saying that there is no clear definition of “aggression.” The April visits made by several government ministers and nearly 170 lawmakers to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine compounds this situation, Kono said.
Kono also decried comments about “comfort women” made by Toru Hashimoto, Osaka’s very outspoken mayor and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party. “Those nationalistic comments sound vigorous in Japan but they are not acceptable outside the country. Absolutely not,” Kono said. “That dealt considerable damage to Japan’s national interest,” he said. “You must ask yourself if you can say those things to the international society…. Would you say that to people in Beijing or Seoul?” Kono is very concerned at this tendency of Abe’s government, saying that Abe needs to fully accept the importance of keeping and improving ties with other Asian countries, especially China and South Korea. “You say it’s hard to get along with them, or there is complicated history. Even so, we must overcome the difficulty and be friends,” Kono said. “It’s crucial to keep that in mind and make efforts, and prioritize that before anything,” he concluded.
[via The Republic]