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Japan Considers Watering Down WWII Apology

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Japan may water down the traditional apology it issues over the country's wartime past, according to reports.

 

Twenty years ago Japan astonished the world when, under then-PM Tomiichi Murayama, it said sorry for its part in the war, acknowledging its own colonisation and expansion efforts in parts of Asia both before and during the war.

In 2005, PM Junichiro Koizumi also apologised on the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

PM Shinzo Abe preparing to make a speech on the anniversary last year

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in late 2012, has a different stance.

Recent comments indicating he wanted to revise the 1995 Murayama statement brought protests from China and South Korea.

He has since backed down, saying his cabinet stands by the 1995 apology, but he wants to look more towards the future with his prime ministerial statement.

Mr Abe has now appointed a panel of experts to consider for the first time what he should say at ceremonies to be held on 15 August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

A girl holds a white dove at a ceremony to commemorate the end of the war

The 16-member panel consists of 10 academics, three senior business officials, two journalists and an international aid worker.

Some are regular members of the PM's advisory committees on policy while others have been brought in to give a more balanced feel to the group.

China and South Korea are not happy about Mr Abe's plans, with China warning Japan not to try to "whitewash past crimes of aggression".

South Korea says any statement should not try to row back from past apologies.

The debate shows the divide that remains in Japan 70 years after the ending of the war.

On one side, some Japanese say accounts of Japan's wartime atrocities were either lies or grossly exaggerated and it is time the country became proud of itself once more.

On the other, the liberal defenders of Japan's Constitution say the country should not forget how it colonised Korea, invaded China and Southeast Asia, and the disaster brought about by such invasions.

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