- TOKYO (Reuters) - A senior
Japanese politician's claim that Japan was forced into World War Two by
the United States has been condemned by an opposition leader as wrong and
- Former defence minister Hosei Norota's statement that
Japan was not to blame for its entry into the war also brought a furious
reaction from South Korea, a onetime a Japanese colony.
- The remarks were also expected to inflame other countries
across Asia that were invaded by Japan's Imperial Army in the 1930s and
1940s and to exacerbate the problems of embattled Prime Minister Yoshiro
- "Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries,
Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources,"
Norota, who is chairman of the Budget Committee of the powerful Lower House
of parliament, was quoted by domestic media as telling supporters of the
dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Sunday.
- "In other words, Japan had fallen prey to a scheme
of the United States. This is what many historians are saying," he
said in remarks reminiscent of the justification used by Japanese militarists
in the 1930s for their invasion of much of Asia.
- South Korea, which suffered Japan's harsh colonial rule
from 1910 to 1945, urged Tokyo to act responsibly so as not to hamper improving
relations between the two countries.
- "We regret Norota's remarks which glamorised the
war and distorted the pain of Asian countries," the South Korea Foreign
Ministry said in a statement
- "His remarks are not desirable for Japan or for
bilateral cooperation," it said
- A senior official in Japan's main opposition Democratic
Party, Hirotaka Akamatsu, told reporters that Norota's remarks were "erroneous,
irresponsible and anachronistic," Kyodo news agency said.
- The Democrats and three other opposition parties -- already
out to topple the unpopular Mori -- were considering whether to submit
a no-confidence motion against Norota.
- "It is entirely possible that there will be an international
reaction, especially in Asia," Democratic Party senior executive Tsutomu
Hata told a news conference.
- MORI MOSTLY MUM
- Mori himself declined to directly comment on Norota's
remarks when pressed in a budget panel debate, but he said the government
stood by the statement made by then- Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in
1995 on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
- Murayama, a Socialist, came closest to a formal apology
for Japan's wartime actions when he said: "To forgo any mistakes in
the future, I accept the truth of this history which cannot be doubted,
and I would like to express anew my deep reflection and sincere apologies."
- Chikara Sakaguchi, a member of ruling coalition partner
New Komeito who holds the health, labour and welfare portfolio in Mori's
cabinet was also pressed for his views.
- "In my personal view, there were aggressive actions
towards countries such as China and then there was a reaction to that from
Europe and the United States and as a result it developed into the Pacific
War," Sakaguchi said. "There are various views, but this is what
- MORI ON THE ROPES
- Mori already faces the biggest crisis of his 10-month
rule amid mounting talk that he will have to resign next month.
- The question mark over who will run Japan comes amid
growing concern over the nation's faltering economy and tense ties with
the United States after a U.S. submarine hit and sank a Japanese training
ship off Hawaii, leaving nine missing and presumed dead
- Mori's own troubles began last May with a similar remark.
- Just a month after taking office, he set off a firestorm
of criticism by calling Japan "a divine nation with the emperor at
its core". The comment revived uncomfortable memories of Japan's wartime
ideology of emperor worship and sent his support ratings of just under
40 percent into a downward spiral.
- In his speech, Norota also called the war the Greater
East Asia War, a term that sparks anger among Japanese for its militarist
overtones reminiscent of the wartime government.
- Norota's remarks were also likely to anger China, parts
of which were also occupied by Japan in the years up to and during World
War Two. Japan's armies also invaded Southeast Asia as it pursued its expansionist
ambitions by saying it wanted to set up what it called the Greater Asia
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