Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan yesterday retracted remarks he had made Monday when he said his nation could “learn the
technique” used by the Nazis to change the Weimar constitution. His comments came as part of an ongoing debate in Japan over its pacifist constitution, which limits the military to a self-defence role.
China and South Korea quickly condemned Mr. Aso’s Monday remarks.
Mr. Aso told reporters Thursday, “I retract my remarks in which I cited the Nazis as an example, as it has ended up leading to misunderstanding,” adding that “It is clear from all my remarks that I have an extremely negative view of the events involving the Nazis and the Weimar constitution.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also chimed in, telling reporters that he wants to make it clear that the Japanese “cabinet will never view the Nazi government positively”.
In 1933 Adolf Hitler declared a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties guaranteed by the Weimar constitution after a fire burned down the German parliament building. He then passed the Enabling Act, which gave him power to pass laws without consulting parliament, and turned his rule into a virtual dictatorship.
South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said Mr. Aso’s remarks “definitely hurt many people”. He added, “It is clear what such comments on the [Nazi] regime mean to people of the time and to those who [suffered] from Japan’s imperialistic invasion”.
And Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the comments alarmed Japan’s neighbors. Mr. Lei stated, “We demand the Japanese side reflect on its history, fulfil its commitments on historical issues and win the trust of Asian neighbours and the international community through concrete actions.”
Constitutional reform is a sensitive issue in Japan. Article 9 of its post-World War II constitution blocks Japan from using military force to resolve conflicts. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution states:
The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes… land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants to re-examine the role of Japan’s armed forces, and to “expand and deepen” the debate over the constitution to ease the tight restrictions on the military.
South Korea and China oppose a Japanese move to reform its constitution in such a manner. Image/Getty Images