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Japanese defense officials punished over war essay

Japanese defense officials punished over war essay

Japan's Defense Ministry has punished several top officials over an essay written by an air force chief sacked for claiming that the country was not an aggressor in World War II, officials said Tuesday.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and three other senior officials are taking partial pay cuts, with two bureaucrats admonished over the history essay by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami, who was dismissed from that post Friday, the ministry said in a statement. It said the measures were meant to address the officials' responsibility for hurting public trust in the military.
Japan's wartime aggression remains a sensitive topic that could easily strain its relations with China and South Korea, though both Asian countries have so far reacted calmly to the essay. China on Monday welcomed Tamogami's dismissal.
"It was truly regrettable that an official serving as air force chief of staff caused such a controversy," Hamada told a news conference.
Hamada promised to ensure proper education among servicemen to nurture "objective understanding of facts without a distorted view of history." He is returning about 169,000 yen ($1,690) from his November salary.
In the essay, which won a writing competition Friday organized by a hotel and condominium developer, Tamogami said: "It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation" during World War II. Japan's occupation was "very moderate" compared to other colonial rulers, liberated the Asian people from oppression and improved their standard of living, he said.
His views are widely shared among Japan's right wing lawmakers and historians. However, Tokyo has repeatedly expressed regret over its colonial rule and wartime aggression in Asia.
A 1995 apology by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, became the government's official stance.
China-Japan relations nose-dived earlier this decade over Japanese leaders' visits to a Tokyo war shrine honoring war dead, including convicted war criminals.
Ties have improved markedly over the last two years.
Tamogami, 60, retired completely from the ministry on Monday _ with all retirement benefits _ but his essay has sparked controversy among Japanese politicians.
It also dealt another blow to Japan's military, under fire over a spate of recent mishaps including the death of a sailor in an unofficial farewell ritual, a confidential missile data leak, and a deadly collision between a destroyer and tuna trawler.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan is demanding parliamentary questioning of Tamogami and other top officials, while Cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Taro Aso's government quickly denounced Tamogami.
"The essay ... was extremely inappropriate," Education Minister Ryu Shionoya said, adding that Japanese textbooks clearly portray Japan as an aggressor.
"I don't think the essay was biased," Tamogami said Monday. "A country where one cannot say anything against the government's view has no democracy _ the same as North Korea."


Updated : 2021-10-26 20:57 GMT+08:00