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'War criminal' label is rejected by Abe

'War criminal' label is rejected by Abe

Japan's new premier Shinzo Abe risked new controversy yesterday ahead of a fence-mending visit to Asian neighbors, insisting Japanese World War II leaders tried by U.S.-led forces were not "war criminals."
During a parliamentary session yesterday Abe said: "The people who are said to be so-called Class-A criminals were tried and convicted as war criminals at the Tokyo tribunal, but they were not war criminals under domestic laws."
"That also was the case for my relative," he added.
Abe, 52, is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who served in the wartime cabinet and helped supervise the industrialization of Manchukuo, the puppet state Japan set up in northeastern China.
Kishi was jailed by U.S. forces as a top war criminal after the war, although he was not tried by the U.S.-led Tokyo tribunal. He later served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960.
Abe, Japan's first prime minister born after World War II, is seen as holding more hardline views on history than his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.
But Abe is set to visit China and South Korea from tomorrow in a bid to mend sour ties.
The two countries, which suffered under Japanese rule, refused to invite Koizumi due to outrage over his repeated visits to a shrine that honors 2.5 million war dead and 14 "Class-A," or top, war criminals.
Abe has refused to say if he will visit the Yasukuni shrine as prime minister.
Yesterday, he said that war criminals should have been freed when Japan signed the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which ended the U.S. occupation of Japan.
"Japan achieved independence by daringly accepting the condition of not freeing those imprisoned unless it has permission from the Allies, even they should have been freed under international law as soon as a treaty was signed," Abe said.
"Japan was not in a position capable of lodging objections over its relations with other countries when signing the treaty," he noted.
Abe took office on September 26 and has faced questioning in parliament by the opposition, which alleges that his key slogan of building "a beautiful country" has authoritarian undertones.
But the premier on Thursday made uncharacteristically conciliatory remarks as he came under fire from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.
"As a result of starting the war, Japan led many of its people to die or lose family members while causing damage to many people in Asia," Abe said.
He also said he and his cabinet abided by the government's 1995 statement that expressed remorse for wartime atrocities.
The 1995 apology, made by socialist prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, has been repeated word by word by subsequent leaders including Koizumi.