Former Prime Minister Murayama Tells Japan’s Leader Abe, “Study Up or Shut Up!”

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to make a statement today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. He said he will uphold the statements made previously on the subject, but people are concerned that he will downplay Japan’s previous apologies.

Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who made the 50th anniversary statement on the war, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan recently, expressing his concerns with Abe’s statement. There is worry that Abe may downplay the Murayama Statement, which apologizes to Korea and China for crimes committed in WWII. Abe has been making comments in attempts to downplay the Murayama Statement, as a result, more and more young people are paying attention to the statement and asking questions about it. Many of these young people have been born after the war, and it’s prompted them to start learning about Japan’s war history on their own.

Due to the fact that Abe is trying to go on the offensive and bulk up Japan’s military, Murayama thinks that there is great danger in the fact that Abe cannot acknowledge that crimes committed during the war were a mistake. Now with the upcoming 70th anniversary of the war, Murayama feels that it is a milestone year that Japan needs to acknowledge.

The Potsdam Declaration was a statement issued in 1945 that called for Japan’s surrender during World War II. It was essentially an ultimatum given to Japan by the U.S., U.K. and China stating that Japan must surrender or face consequences. When asked about the Potsdam Declaration, Abe said that he has “not read the Potsdam Declaration in detail” and he doesn’t believe that the war was a mistake.

Abe’s crusade to nullify or even destroy Japan’s post-pacifist constitution, which also gave the Japanese citizen “basic human rights”, is not given him any popularity points within the country as well as Japan’s neighboring countries. He is intent on destroying Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Article 9 is a clause in the constitution outlawing Japan from using war as a means to settle disputes.

Japan has experienced peace for 70 years, which is an extraordinary thing. Japanese people are worried that the tensions with other countries will escalate if Abe continues to along this path.

Murayama noted, “We’re approaching 70th anniversary of the war, and Abe wants to issue his own statement on the war, and many people wonder how it will differ and what Abe wants to say. When I spoke, it was the 50th anniversary of the war, a very important milestone. It was a time when Japan was realizing it was a member of the Asian community. It was thought we should put an end to this lingering history. We should apologize for the errors we made, and vow never to repeat them.”

Murayama also noted that the security legislation Abe and the LDP is pushing through the Diet is considered unconstitutional by an overwhelming majority of scholars.

“If it is the decision of the cabinet to change the constitution (at will), this kind of action cannot be permitted. If you want to reinterpret the constitution, you must actually revise it, something people say is near-impossible.”

Referencing the growing protests to the security legislation, Murayama added, “It’s only natural Japanese have become angry. I’ve repeated how Japan has experienced peace for so many years. We need to study history.”

In that statement that we need to study history and his pointing out that Abe had not read or understood the Potsdam Declaration, Murayama seemed to be saying to his successor, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. And if you knew your history, you’d make a proper apology. Get smart or shut up.” In many ways, the press conference was like a wise, cranky old teacher scolding a lazy student. However, will the lazy student listen?