Japan’s finance minister retracts statement on Nazis

tags: World War II, NYT, Nazi Germany, Japan, Imperial Japan



TOKYO — Japan’s finance minister on Thursday publicly retracted comments he made this week that appeared to call on Japan’s current conservative government to emulate Hitler’s takeover of prewar Germany. The gaffe underscored the potential for disputes over Japan’s own wartime history to derail its popular prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

The finance minister, Taro Aso, insisted that his comments on Monday, in which he seemed to say that Japan should learn how the Nazi party quietly rewrote Germany’s Constitution, were taken out of context. Faced with growing criticism in Japan and abroad, he countered that he had never meant to praise the Nazis. He said he had hoped to prompt debate in Japan over whether to change its current pacifist Constitution to allow a full-fledged military, as many conservatives now seek.

Still, the uproar over the comments by Mr. Aso, an outspoken nationalist who is also known for slips of the tongue, seemed to confirm the fears of some Japanese and other Asians that members of Mr. Abe’s government want to revise current views of World War II to present Imperial Japan, an ally of Nazi Germany, in a more positive light. The gaffe was also the latest in a string of recent events, including nationalistic displays by South Korean and Japanese fans at a soccer game, that have raised concerns that disagreements over interpreting the war could isolate Japan from the rest of Asia, where there are still bitter memories of Japan’s early 20th-century empire building....



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