Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he wants Japan to become a "normal country," an internationally respected power whose political status is commensurate with its economic weight. But with uncanny regularity he seeks to excuse or gloss over his country's militarist past in a way that thwarts this goal.
Last year Mr. Abe commissioned a government panel to re-examine Japan's 1993 apology to "comfort women"—a grotesque euphemism for the tens of thousands of women across Asia forced into institutionalized sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. The panel's report released last week calls into question the integrity of that landmark apology, known as the Kono Statement. That reinforces the image of a Japan that still denies its pre-1945 imperialism.
While the government-mandated panel's report does not repudiate the Kono Statement and Mr. Abe's chief spokesman affirmed there will be "no change in the administration's position of continuing to abide by that statement," the prime minister has reopened old wounds by questioning the legitimacy of the apology.
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