I wonder if it’s less about “denying” and more about “that shit was seventy fucking years ago and everyone who did it is dead, can we PLEASE move on.”
The question is whether Mr Abe can keep the government on-message. In picking his 19-member cabinet he has given reason to doubt that, in the long run, he even wants to. Consider the following. Fourteen in the cabinet belong to the League for Going to Worship Together at Yasukuni, a controversial Tokyo shrine that honours leaders executed for war crimes. Thirteen support Nihon Kaigi, a nationalist think-tank that advocates a return to “traditional values” and rejects Japan’s “apology diplomacy” for its wartime misdeeds. Nine belong to a parliamentary association that wants the teaching of history in schools to give a better gloss to Japan’s militarist era. They deny most of Japan’s wartime atrocities. The line-up includes Hakubun Shimomura, the new education minister, who wants to rescind not just the landmark 1995 “Murayama statement”, expressing remorse to Asia for Japan’s atrocities, but even annul the verdicts of the war-crimes trials in Tokyo in 1946-48. Mr Abe has made no secret of his wish to revise three of the country’s basic modern charters: the American-imposed constitution of 1946, committing Japan to pacifism; the education law, which Mr Abe thinks undervalues patriotism; and the security treaty with the United States, under which Japan plays a junior role. To describe the new government as “conservative” hardly captures its true character. This is a cabinet of radical nationalists.