Japan’s new PM Shinzo Abe is in the Diet today answering questions fomr Diet members on his policies. You can watch the proceedings now here (in Japanese). Abe just said to the effect:
There was a question on the enshrinement of Class A War Criminals at Yasukuni Shrine. On the topic of Class A War Criminals, there are many opinions on each side so I don’t think it would be appropriate for the Japanese government to comment one way or the other on the matter.
Pardon my ignorance, but doesn’t the Japanese government generally respect the results of the Tokyo tribunals? I’m interested to see what the press has to say (if anything) on Abe’s comment. More likely, they will comment on what he said next, which is that he still refuses to comment on whether he himself plans to visit the shrine.
UPDATE: The video of the questioning is now available.
Here’s what he said:
There was a question on the responsibility as national leaders of the so-called “Class-A war criminals.” Regarding the responsibility for the last great war, there is a variety of opinions, so I feel that it may be inappropriate to make detailed, sweeping comments as a government [on this issue]. Whatever the case, our nation accepted the judgments of the Tokyo tribunals based on Article 11 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, so I believe that in state to state relationships, the Government of Japan is in no position to raise any objections regarding this judgment.
His explanation is almost an exactly lifted from the foreign ministry’s explanation of the issue:
The Government of Japan acknowledges that there are various arguments regarding this judgment. However, Japan has accepted the judgment of the IMTFE under Article 11 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Therefore, in state to state relationship, the Government of Japan believes that it is in no position to raise any objections regarding this judgment.
Isn’t that cheating? I thought this was a man with strong opinions!
One other interesting development during the questioning: Abe screwed up, if only a little bit. DPJ member Takaaki Matsumoto asked the PM whether Abe’s reference in his Friday inaugural policy speech to “research” what situations would allow for collective defense by Japan meant that the “quite detailed” constitutional interpretations by previous governments would be changed. In response, Abe repeated what he said last week: He will research into what kinds of circumstances would allow Japan to exercise collective defense, founded on previous constitutional interpretations and Diet debates, and “focusing on actual situations that could occur.” According to Abe, there is a need to look into this issue due to “increased expectations” of Japan so that the U.S. Japan alliance can “operate more efficiently.”
However, minutes later, Abe came back and “supplemented” his response by saying that at this stage he was simply stating a “summary of his views” on the matter and that he intends to “duly consider” the matter of collective defense. This essentially backtracks his earlier, more concrete statement that he would research the issue.
Matsumoto, an opposition lawmaker who has never held a cabinet post, then found himself in the unlikely position lecturing the youngest (and one of the least experienced) postwar prime minister on how to run his cabinet: “I think that there might be a need for you to reread your statements on the…collective defense issue at the cabinet and get them organized.”
Not sure why Abe tried to delete his previous remarks, but perhaps he is trying to avoid making headlines about his efforts to rewrite the constitution ahead of his Oct. 8 summit meeting with the Chinese premier.