Leader in new Japanese government urges an apology for World War II

August 04, 1993|By Sam Jameson | Sam Jameson,Los Angeles Times

TOKYO -- Japan's next government should clearly apologize for World War II and "inform our children what their forefathers did in the past," Tsutomu Hata, who is expected to become the country's deputy prime minister, said yesterday.

Such action is needed, he said, to end constant foreign demands for apologies and continuing suspicion that Japan is bent on seeking military dominance again in Asia.

Mr. Hata, 57, is a leading figure in the eight-party coalition that is expected to begin governing Japan when Parliament elects a prime minister tomorrow. He heads the Renewal Party, a band of rebels from the outgoing Liberal Democratic Party, and until December served as finance minister under outgoing Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

Mr. Hata made the statements at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in response to a question about a pledge in the coalition's platform to "self-reflect on the past war." The Liberal Democratic governments that ruled Japan for 38 years consistently resisted recognizing Japan's responsibility for World War II.

Although he himself was touted for the prime minister spot after Japan's perennial rulers failed to win a majority in the lower house in the July 18 election, Mr. Hata said he now intends to act as the "glue" to hold the coalition parties together under the premiership of Morihiro Hosokawa. A fellow Liberal Democratic defector who established the grass-roots Japan New Party only 14 months ago, Mr. Hosokawa is the expected victor when Parliament votes on the top post tomorrow.

Mr. Hata revealed that he had recommended to Mr. Miyazawa in 1991 that the prime minister issue a war apology and that Parliament enact a resolution backing him up shortly before the United States marked the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Now, the approaching 50th anniversary of Japan's 1945 defeat offers another occasion for a "soul-searching look at the meaning of the war," he said.

Mr. Hata complained that every time Japan's emperor goes overseas or foreign royalty comes to Japan, comments on Japan's role in World War II become an issue.

"How long can this phenomenon continue?" he said. To end the trouble, Japan should offer a clear war apology, instead of "using such words as 'regret,'" he said.

He added that the Japanese should stop using the word "shusen" (end of the war) and start saying "haisen" (defeat in the war), "because that was what it was. We must also inform our children what their forefathers did in the past."

Because Japan has refused to take such steps, it continually invites suspicions of its actions, he said. Last year, for example, when Parliament passed a law authorizing overseas dispatch of troops to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations, "many people were worried that Japan once again might seek hegemony -- trying to suppress other countries with military power. Even some people in Japan thought that way," he said.

"To Asia and to the rest of the world, we should clearly apologize for things for which an apology is needed and come to grips with what happened in the past," he said.

Apologies "are needed at home too," Mr. Hata added, citing Japanese victims of atomic and other bombings of major cities during the war, children who were orphaned and Japanese settlers in Manchuria who were abandoned by Japan's armed forces at the end of the war.

"To those people, too, we should send a message that war is a miserable experience and that we will never again wage war."

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