- "No apology": Abe said that after all, he would not dump Tomiichi Murayama's 1995 statement, the first embryo of official apologies from a Japanese government for the atrocities committed under Imperial Japanese rule. That's a good thing, but not a major surprise: that statement was a red line that many even within his own party thought too risky to cross**.
- "Invasion": Abe said "I never said Japan did not invade other countries". Which is technically true, but technically as well, this man is still refusing to confirm that Japan invaded other countries!
- "Necessary": Abe said that neither he nor his party shared Toru Hashimoto's views on Comfort Women (see "So you want to know what is 'necessary', Mr Hashimoto?"). Here too, Abe doesn't state clearly what his own views are.***
So let's not rejoice too soon. Here, Shinzo Abe is just aknowledging his limits of the day after testing how far he could go without facing any resistance. We've watched him grow bolder and bolder, and now he's simply redeeming a few Godwin Points from his Imperial Japan Airlines mileage program, after collecting a record bonus in his recent infamous Flight 731 (see "Can't top that? Shinzo Abe posing as Shiro Ishii, the Josef Mengele of Imperial Japan").
International pressure definitely played a role, and the Unit 731 provocation backfired, triggering many articles on the very atrocities Abe and his friends try to obliterate from memories, just like the lobby of Japanese lawmakers against memorials for Comfort Women erected in the US backfired last year (see "We reject as false the choice between revisionism and nationalism - for a Global Truth and Reconciliation Network").
But Shinzo Abe doesn't care much about international pressure: I think he was forced to back down a bit by members from his own party, who probably reminded him that the most important for them was to pass the modification of the Article 96 of the Constitution, which makes it difficult to change the Constitution itself. Right now, you need each of the 2 houses to get 2/3 of their members vote the change, then ratify it through a popular vote (referendum). If Shinzo Abe's LDP doesn't have a majority by itself, fellow hardliners Your Party and Hashimoto's Restoration Party share the same goal of destroying the safeguards of Japanese democracy, starting with the fundamental Article 9, which clearly states that Japan is a peaceful nation ("Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes").
So nothing has changed yesterday. Shinzo Abe has only be reminded by fellow warmongers that he should keep his eyes on the ball: we must first destroy Japan as a democracy.
Yesterday, Shinzo Abe also confirmed that he considered meeting Kim Jong-un. His government sent an envoy to Pyongyang against the strict recommendations of Japan's allies... but maybe Mr Abe sees more kinship in such democracies as North Korea, Russia or Iran, who knows?
Anyway, both "Kim The Third" and "Shiro Abe" badly need a PR stunt to raise their profiles as East Asia's top "diplomats"...
Seoul Village 2013
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* see "Abe Bows to Int'l Pressure Over WWII Apology" (Chosun Ilbo 20130516)
** see "Interpretations of Japan's wartime history causing rift in ruling LDP" (Asahi Shimbun 20130514)
*** Note that Japanese voices rose loudly to condemned Hashimoto: Okinawa women's associations (see "Okinawa women’s groups condemn Hashimoto justification of sex slaves" - Japan Times 20130516)... but some may say Okinawa itself is not completely Japan...
*** I wrote something about that episode on my French blog ("L'extreme-droite Japonaise invite Le Pen... et les projecteurs"), and later on Rue89 ("La visite de Le Pen au Japon, coup de com pour l'extrême droite nippone")
*** see "Abe Hints at Meeting Kim Jong-un" (Chosun Ilbo 20130516)