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Japan’s Apologies to China

In this post I have assembled together as many unique statements including apologies or statements of regret towards China. Please read the introduction to my post on Japan’s apologies to Korea which applies equally here. Briefly, my position is that I think the apology issue is the wrong issue for those concerned with historical revisionism in Japan to spend their energy on. Not only do I think Japan has already apologized, but I believe such national apologies have little or no worth and aren’t worth the hot air they generate. In fact, neither do they satisfy the Asian countries they are directed towards (if and when they ever find out about the statements) but they increasingly inflame otherwise sympathetic Japanese who feel they are forced to engage in constant self-flagellation. This distracts them from the more important historiographical issues at stake on all sides. On the other hand, it is also highly inaccurate to portray the “apology diplomacy” of Japan as a story of repeatedly issuing unambiguous statements of admitted guilt and apology. These statements vary greatly, and were often issued with great reluctance and in the face of opposition from conservative politicians who etertain the most revisionist historical positions.

Note: There is overlap between this and my last posting, simply because some statements referred to all of Asia or at least to both Korea and China.

Let us begin:

Statements Including Apologies or Statements of Regret Relevant to China

1972.9.29 Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China “The Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself.” J: 日本側は,過去において日本国が戦争を通じて中国国民に重大な損害を与えたことについての責任を痛感し,深く反省する。 C: 日本方面痛感日本国过去由于战争给中国人民造成的重大损害的责任,表示深刻的反省。 Notes: The English version Japanese version, and Chinese versions are online.

1982.8.24 Suzuki Zenkô (Prime Minister) At a press conference during the first textbook crisis of 1982. “I am painfully aware of [our] responsibility for inflicting serious damages (on some Asian countries) during the past war.” J:「過去の戦争を通じ、重大な損害を与えた責任を深く痛感している」 “We need to recognize/acknowledge criticism that (Japan’s occupation) was invasion.” J: 「『侵略』という批判もあることは認識する必要がある」 Notes: Is it safe to say that there is an ambiguity in the word 認識 which could either imply that you acknowledge safely from a distance the criticism without necessarily believing it to be correct?

1982.8.26 Suzuki Zenkô (Prime Minister) I’m not sure if this is the same press conference as above, but according to this document, the following statement was issued: “Japan and the people of Japan are deeply conscious of the fact that in the past our actions have caused a great deal of pain and loss to the countries of Asia, including China and Korea, and we are building the foundations of our future as peaceful country upon our reflection upon this fact and our resolve never to it happen again.” (MT) J: 日本政府及び日本国民は,過去において,我が国の行為が韓国・中国を含むアジアの国々の国民に多大の苦痛と損害を与えたことを深く自覚し,このようなことを二度と繰り返してはならないとの反省と決意の上に立って平和国家としての道を歩んで来た。

1992.10.27 Heisei Emperor (Akihito) “In the long history of relations between our two countries, there was a tragic period when my country caused great suffering for the people of China. We have rebuilt our country and strongly resolved to pursue the path of a peaceful country on the basis of our deep regret and desire that this kind of war should never be repeated.” (WP) J: この両国の関係の永きにわたる歴史において、我が国が中国国民に対し多大の苦難を与えた不幸な一時期がありました。これは私の深く悲しみとするところであります。戦争が終わった時、我が国民は、このような戦争を再び繰り返してはならないとの深い反省にたち、平和国家としての道を歩むことを固く決意して、国の再建に取り組みました。爾来、我が国民は、世界の諸国との新たな友好関係を築くことに努力してまいりましたが、貴国との間においては、両国の先人たちをはじめとする多くの人々の情熱と努力によって、将来にわたる末長い平和友好を誓い合う関係が生まれ、広範な分野での交流が深まりつつあります。 C: 在两国关系悠久的历史上,曾经有过一段我国给中国国民带来深重苦难的不幸时期。我对此深感痛心。战争结束后,我国国民基于不再重演这种战争的深刻反省,下定决心,一定要走和平国家的道路,并开始了国家的复兴。从此,我国专心致力于建立与世界各国之间的新的友好关系。在同贵国的关系上,通过两国前辈们等许多人士的热情努力,建立了要永誓和平友好的关系,两国在广泛领域的交流正在不断加深。我对两国国民之间关系取得了这样的进展感到由衷的喜悦,同时衷心希望这种良好的关系进一步发展成为不可动摇的关系。Notes: As you can see, this is a rather weak and vague statement in comparison to the important 1972, 1995, and 1998 statements. However, its importance shouldn’t be underestimated. The statement admits that Japan “caused” (与えた) pain to the Chinese people and claims that as a result of this Japan was forced to reflect and regret this period of time and desire never to repeat it in the future. A statement coming from the emperor such as this is still more than many had expected (He apparently also used the word “regret” or 反省 with Li Peng’s visit to Japan in 1989 but I can’t find the original full statement on this). There was political debate in Japan whether this statement constituted a violation of the constitutional role of the emperor, especially since it was reported that not only the foreign ministry but the emperor’s own hand was found in the specific wording of the phrase. There was also considerable negotiations between the Chinese and Japanese about the wording and certain adjustments in the translation which makes the statement stronger in Chinese. For example, the phrase 多大の苦難 or “much suffering” is translated in a slightly heavier sounding 深重苦难 or “grave/deep suffering” which the Chinese felt was a more appropriately serious adjective. Actually, more than the apology, at least two articles I read indicated that Deng Xiaoping was more happy to just get the emperor over there so soon after the Tiananmen incident. China was still suffering the aftershocks of diplomatic isolation. The Japanese version and the Chinese version of these statements are available online.

1993.8.11 Hosokawa (Prime Minister) “The last war was a war of aggression[/invasion]” J: 「先の戦争は侵略戦争」I have also seen this version “The last war was a war of agreesion, it was a mistake.” 「先の戦争は侵略戦争、誤った戦争。」This was supposedly given at the press conference after he came into power.

1995.6.9 Diet of Representatives A watered down statement was issued by the Diet (see posting on this coming soon) which includes the following “On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, this House offers its sincere condolences to those who fell in action and victims of wars and similar actions all over the world. Solemnly reflecting upon many instances of colonial rule and acts of aggression in the modern history of the world, and recognizing that Japan carried out those acts in the past, inflicting pain and suffering upon the peoples of other countries, especially in Asia, the Members of this House express a sense of deep remorse.” J: 本院は、戦後五十年にあたり、全世界の戦没者および戦争等による犠牲者に対し、追悼の誠を捧げる。また、世界の近代史における数々の植民地支配や侵略行為に想いをいたし、我が国が過去に行ったこうした行為や他国民とくにアジア諸国民に与えた苦痛を認識し、深い反省の念を表明する。我々は、過去の戦争についての歴史観の相違を超え、歴史の教訓を謙虚に学び、平和な国際社会を築いていかなければならない。Notes: Notice the “sharing” of responsibility at work here by noting that Japan’s colonial behavior was consistent with that of other nations. This marks one of the many changes required to get 230 out of 251 (about half the Diet didn’t even show up for the vote) to pass. While certainly not inaccurate, this addition led to serious criticism and may be why Murayama’s later statement on August 15th is the most consistently referred to by the Foreign Ministry.

1995.8.15 Murayama Tomiichi (Prime Minister) On the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. Full text on Foreign Ministry site. ” During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.” J: 「わが国は、遠くない過去の一時期、国策を誤り、戦争への道を歩んで国民を存亡の危機に陥れ、植民地支配と侵略によって、多くの国々、とりわけアジア諸国の人々に対して多大の損害と苦痛を与えました。私は、未来に誤ち無からしめんとするが故に、疑うべくもないこの歴史の事実を謙虚に受け止め、ここにあらためて痛切な反省の意を表し、心からのお詫びの気持ちを表明いたします。また、この歴史がもたらした内外すべての犠牲者に深い哀悼の念を捧げます。」 Notes: It looks like there is a separate verbal statement by Murayama which is similar but has slightly different wording. Any thoughts? Also this statement was significantly watered down thanks to opposition from dozens of conservative Liberal Democrat Diet members. Some of the debate in the Diet on this reveals the deep revisionist leanings of many of these Diet members. Can anyone find some of the earlier proposed statements? Also, it looks like Murayama had already made his own position, expressed so clearly in this speech, almost a year earlier in this statement about his policy plans for a “Plan for Exchanges of Peace and Friendship” which you can find here. Again, make no mistake about it, this statement has since been embraced by prime ministers and the foreign ministry as the position of the Japanese government, despite resistance at the time. So even, for example, right-wing Hashimoto is found saying things like 「日本政府は、第二次世界大戦敗戦の日から五十周年の1995年、内閣総理大臣談話という形をとりまして、我が国として、過去の日本の行為が中国を含む多くの人々に対し、耐え難い悲しみと苦しみを与えた、これに対して深い反省の気持ちの上に立ち、お詫びを申し上げながら、平和のために力を尽くそうとの決意を発表しました。私自身がその談話の作成に関わった閣僚の一人です。」  There are many other examples where the August 15th statement is referred to in this way as the official position, see for example, here, here, and here.

1998.11.26 Japan-China Joint Declaration On Building a Partnership of Friendship and Cooperation for Peace and Development In section three is the clause, “The Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious distress and damage that Japan caused to the Chinese people through its aggression against China during a certain period in the past and expressed deep remorse for this.” J: 過去の一時期の中国への侵略によって中国国民に多大な災難と損害を与えた責任を痛感し、これに対し深い反省を表明した。 After this sentence, the Chinese express their response: J: 中国側は、日本側が歴史の教訓に学び、平和発展の道を堅持することを希望する。双方は、この基礎の上に長きにわたる友好関係を発展させる。 Notes: The Japanese version, English version, and Chinese version are all available online. Notice the inclusion of the word “aggression/invasion” (侵略) as compared to the 1972 Communique phrasing of “through war.”

2001.4.3 Fukuda Yasuo (Chief Cabinet Secretary) “Japan humbly accepts that for a period in the not too distant past, it caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations, through its colonial rule and aggression, and expresses its deep remorse and heartfelt apology for this. Such recognition has been succeeded by subsequent Cabinets and there is no change regarding this point in the present Cabinet” Notes: In a statement made about the 2002 textbooks found here. Can someone find the Japanese version on the MOFA Japanese web page?

2001.9.8 Tanaka Makiko (Foreign Minister) “We have never forgotten that Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries during the last war. Many lost their precious lives and many were wounded. The war has left an incurable scar on many people, including former prisoners of war. Facing these facts of history in a spirit of humility, I reaffirm today our feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology expressed in the Prime Minister Murayama’s statement of 1995″ J: 日本は、先の大戦において多くの国の人々に対して多大な損害と苦痛を与えたことを決して忘れてはおりません。多くの人々が貴重な命を失ったり、傷を負われました。また、元戦争捕虜を含む多くの人々の間に癒しがたい傷跡を残しています。こうした歴史の事実を謙虚に受け止め、1995年の村山内閣総理大臣談話の痛切な反省の意及び心からのお詫びの気持ちをここに再確認いたします。 Notes: Full statement here and in Japanese here. Said during anniversary of San Francisco treaty.

2003.8.15 Koizumi Junichiro (Prime Minister) “During the war, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. On behalf of the people of Japan, I hereby renew my feelings of profound remorse as I express my sincere mourning to the victims” J: あの戦いは、我が国のみならず多くの国々、とりわけアジアの近隣諸国に対しても多くの苦しみと悲しみを与えました。私は、この事実を謙虚に受けとめ、深い反省とともに、ここに謹んで哀悼の意を表したいと思います。 Notes: Made same day he visited Yasukuni. Full statement here and in Japanese (EUC) here.

Links and Sources:

松田弘、波多野澄雄、編 『アジアのなかの日本と中国:友好と摩擦の現代史』 山川出版者、2004。
天児慧『等身大の中国』 剄草書房、2004。
毛里和子、张蕴岭 『日中関係をどう構築するか:アジアの共生と協力をめざして』岩波書店、2004。

Wakamiya, Yoshibumi 若宮啓文 The Postwar Conservative View of Asia: How the Political Right Has Delayed Japan’s Coming to Terms With Its History of Aggression in Asia (Tokyo, LTCB International Library Foundation, 1999)

Tanaka Akira’s Online Database of Documents related to Japan’s International Relations

Japan Foreign Ministry Statements Related to Postwar Issues – Note that MOFA is very protective of the language of apologies and they only host the Murayama statement here, not many of the other formulations of apologies and statements of regret.
List of Statements of Apology (Japanese) Looks like revisionist site.
Some Translation Exercises which include apology statements (Japanese and English) – Looks like revisionist site.
Another Site Listing Apologies in English

J: Japanese translation
MT: My quick and dirty translation, other translations are taken from various sources. Some of them have or will be modified as we notice discrepancies.

{ 18 } Comments

  1. yifan | 2005.4.17 at 9:33 | Permalink

    Great effort. May I post a website here?
    It is a group blog and i sometimes co-write. Recently there are a number of Sino-Japanese posts which are mostly initated by me. There is even a conflict scenario. The site is in Simplified Chinese although some posts are in English.

    Another thing i think that’s been neglected is the more reasonable voices in China. Mindmeters has the editorial of the Economic Observer this weekened. EO is an weekly national broadsheet.

  2. Muninn | 2005.4.17 at 11:38 | Permalink

    Thanks Yifan, I’ll check out your website. I would love to read more reasonable voices amongst the Chinese writing about this!

  3. Cathy Johnson | 2005.4.24 at 12:10 | Permalink

    Tensions appear to be winding down, for the time being at least, between the two Asian giants, China and Japan. But since one or the other is fated to control the region, this can only be a lull – unless (horror of horror!) they decide for some future reasons to form an anti-American alliance.

    The move to open conflict seems to have been temporarily postponed for now, according to the stories on

    There’s also a fascinating page of current news articles on the rise of China, the collapsing dollar, the declining U.S. economy, and the New World Order at, which makes for interesting daily reading!

  4. denisdekat | 2005.4.24 at 23:38 | Permalink

    Maybe China should look at itself right now and what they did to Tibet. From my perspective, they are big time Hypocrites, and any respect I have for the Chinese nation is going down the drain. Also, since when is China a “beacon of truth”? Hard to take them seriously so long as they have Tibet. Korea on the other hand has very legitimate complaints…

  5. JIM LONGO | 2005.4.25 at 16:57 | Permalink

    Thank you for posting the numerous times that Japan has apologized for its aggression in China. I think you listed 21 apologies. The newspaper Investors’ Business Daily said there had been 17. This contradicts Beijing’s Big Lie that there has never been any apology from Japan. Instead of groveling, Japan should counter by asking when China, or more specifically, the Chinese Communist Party, will apologize for the 30 million people exterminated during the Great Leap Forward famine holocaust, the hundreds of thousands killed in Tibet, and the support of Pol Pol and his Khmer Rouge butchers in Cambodia and Kim Jong-Il in North Korea.

  6. Muninn | 2005.4.25 at 18:39 | Permalink

    Hmm…Jim, part of my reason for posting this was so we can look beyond the number of 17 or 21 or whatever statements of regret or apologies. As you can see, these statements vary considerably in their wording and their reluctance to concede Japan’s role during the war. I agree the apology issue should die, but I’m as concerned as anyone about the increasing attempt by revisionists and their growing number of supporters amongst conservatives in Japan to recreate a liberation-of-Asia narrative of their colonial and wartime history that leaves out the many horrible atrocities and oppressive nature of their colonial/occupation regimes.

    As for China, the atrocities of Tibet are significant, and China is indeed not ready to come to terms with the horrible millions of deaths during the Great Leap Forward and cultural revolution. However, I would also guard against making a “calculus of atrocity” in which we compare the horrible policies of the end of the ’50s which led to millions of deaths mostly through starvation – and wartime atrocities in which individuals attacked non-combatants. It just isn’t a good game to play.

    Finally, I don’t like anyone responding to accusations of “forgetting atrocities of the past” with “hey, you forgot yours too!” That doesn’t get us anywhere. We need to look at all of these things without regard to nation – as if we are in some kind of atrocity-spitting contest.

  7. Lihua | 2005.5.3 at 11:28 | Permalink

    The wording of Japanese “remorse” doesn’t surprise me at all. Just remember the words President Clinton used after they “mistakenly” bombed the Chinese embassy in 1999. Also President Bush has never apologized for the misuse of intelligence. So much for the “beacon of freedom”.

  8. David Nugi | 2006.1.9 at 5:05 | Permalink

    The apology demanded seems to drag on and on. Both North Koreans and China still fiind time to throw rocks at Japan whenever it pleases to mantain the perception that it is the main aggressor in the asian circle. Japan has established funds to compensate victims and even gives aid to both countries. The nanjing massacre, the comfort women, and chemical attacks on China is repeatedly stated over the media . Japan has apologized 21 times so what is the real issue here? Is it because of fear that Japan is pushing for a greater power in the region through economic means and also submission to be the permanent member of UN security council?

    Lets talk about the real meaning of this dragging of wartime past attrocities. Why cannot Japan China and North Korea form alliances to improve both social and economic infrastrues to develop its country. Can German apology and compensation to the Jewish race be a good example?

  9. Richard Daehler, MA | 2006.2.22 at 13:46 | Permalink

    excellent summary.

  10. Jun Wang | 2006.10.7 at 16:43 | Permalink

    The apologies are not sincere! without the simple word ‘apologize’, they were only showing they are hypocritical.

  11. bob | 2006.10.20 at 6:21 | Permalink

    I have read all the English and Japanese versions of the apologies and have the following observations:
    1. Difficult to know whether Japan is really sincere in its apologies. Because they seldom use the Japanese word “owabi”(apology) and only in 3 occasions in which 2 were directed to Korea. The apologies were worded very carefully to avoid any embarrassment to Japan.
    The Japanese word used very frequently in these apologies is “hansei” which literally means “reflection”. These apologies indicate that Japan doesn’t really want to apologize but in order to pacify the neighbouring countries Japan has no option but to apologize in a rather reserved “aimai” manner. Please don’t forget Japan has killed millions of Chinese, Koreans and other Asians in the second world war. These countries deserve a more formal, written apology from Japan. No country in the world has killed more people than Japan has in the second world war. Besides, most victims were civilians and were brutally massacred.

    2. There is no written apologies to China, but to Korea only. Strange. Any one knows why?

  12. Isamu | 2006.10.22 at 15:27 | Permalink


    I think that people seem to forget that China is a communist country. Japan could apologize all day, and I think it would have very little effect. Even if a written apology did happen, I doubt that anyone in China would know.

    Communist countries need a scapecoat for internal problems. Protest about Japan are fine, but if those same protest were directed at the Chinese government, they wouldn’t even be reported by the Chinese media.

    I really really don’t believe that it’s all about an apology. And about the textbook thing, which I understand, but really don’t… Dose anyone really think that Japanese have no idea what went on during the war? I mean really… C’mon. Its also silly to think that Japanese people are happy about it.

  13. bob | 2006.10.22 at 23:27 | Permalink

    I beg to differ with your arguments.
    Yes, China is a communist country but it doesn’t mean Japan should not issue a formal written apology for its war atrocities. Apology by Japan has nothing to do with China being a Communist country. Do you mean that becasue China is a communist country, Japan should not issue a written apology? I find this kind of reasoning strange. I also disagree with your saying that ‘Even if a written apology did happen, I doubt that anyone in China would know’ Base on what evidence do you say this?

  14. kb | 2006.11.13 at 9:31 | Permalink

    Great job compiling the apologies. Personally, I agree with you that they really mean very little and do not represent a full and unambiguous apology like those we can see everwhere in Germany.

    I also agree with you that issuing or hearing statements like these are strangely unsatisfying and troubling.

    However, unless China or the rest of Asia become as developed or as strong, economically and technologically, as Japan, it will be very difficult to see the Japanese becoming humble.

    On the other hand, globalization and the increase use of English in Japan might enable the Japanese to appreciate how others around Japan view them, without the distortion of the Japanese media in translation.

  15. Ian | 2007.1.9 at 0:20 | Permalink

    What exactly do you people want? Should the japanese prime minister fellate every single citizen of China and Korea? No matter what they say you’ll still say “NOT GOOD ENOUGH.” All it does is make you look immature.

    The Japanese have issued enough verbal/written apologies to satisfy anyone sane. If you want to keep pressing them on the textbooks, fine. Good. That’s a practical matter that they are definitely in the wrong about. But continuing demands for apologies while ignoring or dismissing any that come is childish.

  16. Xu,Chong | 2008.7.21 at 7:36 | Permalink

    Thanks for your important information. I am chinese. I really dont understand that our goverment always says that Japan had never made apologise to China… … It is not true. No war again.

  17. Lobsang | 2009.1.8 at 18:28 | Permalink

    What Japan has done on Chinese is exactly what China has done in recent years in Tibet, since the invasion of Tibet in 1959 to Present!
    This is a vicious cycle that China is not admitting. When Tibetan or Chinese protest against the CCPs (Chinese Communist Party) various cruel policies, The CCP is quick to use brutal forces to crush these peaceful protest. But when there is “anti-japanese” or anti-non-CCP protest is happened in China, it is well documented that CCP’s agent provocateur, provokes and encourages these protest. This what CCP has been known to do well when they see the anger of the mass coming their way, CCP uses “Patriotic lingo” to charge their youngsters and their mass to vent their angers at some other source, as long as its not the CCP.

    This article shows in clear precision how the Chinese Communist Government manipulates and regulates its Citizens opinion.

    As a Tibetan but more importantly as a Human being, it is common sense to REALIZE that What Japan has done in the past is very sad and inhumane but What China has done and is still doing in Tibet is Horrifyingly the same. This is hypocracy in action. The more than 150,000+ Tibetan refugees are the proof. We can’t live in our own country and we can’t escape our own country to seek freedom in Exile ( ex: Nangpa la shooting ).

  18. Tenant representation | 2011.8.10 at 2:04 | Permalink

    Currently I have to determine whether to keep reading of the blog, or go to some other site.

{ 5 } Trackbacks

  1. Simon World | 2005.4.17 at 7:58 | Permalink

    Japan/China tensions (Updated April 17th)

    Note: I am just expanding now on yesterday’s coverage, starting from the Update below. The previous coverage is below the fold, in chronological order. Update April 17th * China clamped down hard on activists in Beijing, preventing large protests ther…

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