Japan’s Next Premier Reconsiders Postwar Era

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After securing the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidency on Wednesday, Shinzo Abe will become Japan’s first prime minister born after World War II, with a clear eye toward re-examining the postwar era....

"By entrusting our national security to another country and putting a priority on economic development, we were indeed able to make great material gains,” Mr. Abe wrote of the postwar era in his campaign book, “Toward a Beautiful Country.” “But what we lost spiritually — that was also great.”

The emergence of a prime minister with no personal experience of World War II is considered a turning point in Japan, where the absence of a consensus on the war still troubles relations with the rest of Asia....

Hakubun Shimomura, a Liberal Democratic lawmaker and an ally of Mr. Abe’s, said the next prime minister would “look back objectively at the postwar period, removed from its trauma and able to make choices as part of the postwar generation.”

“I think the symbolic start of the independent nation of Japan will be Mr. Abe’s revision of the Constitution,” Mr. Shimomura said.

But Shusei Tanaka, a professor at Fukuyama University and a former Liberal Democratic lawmaker, worried that Mr. Abe’s greatest influence was from his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, a wartime cabinet member imprisoned as a Class A war crimes suspect but never tried, who became prime minister in 1957. Recently, Mr. Abe has avoided commenting on Japan’s wartime past....

On wartime history, Mr. Abe has allied himself with Japan’s right-wing politicians, news media and scholars. Unlike Mr. Koizumi, he has doubted the validity of the postwar Tokyo trials in which Japan’s wartime leaders were condemned.

In the past he has indicated that he rejects the mainstream, postwar view that Japan waged a war of aggression and invasion in Asia. But he has not publicly embraced the hard-line position that Japan waged war in Asia to liberate it from Western imperialism. Unlike Mr. Koizumi and other prime ministers, Mr. Abe, though pressed many times, has avoided endorsing a landmark apology issued in 1995 by the Japanese government to Asian countries.

Read entire article at NYT

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