TOKYO — Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso refused today to resign or apologize over remarks suggesting Japan should follow the Nazi example of how to change the country’s constitution stealthily and without public debate.
Following protests by neighboring countries and human rights activists, he “retracted” the comments on Thursday but refused to go further.
“I have no intention to step down” as Cabinet minister or lawmaker, Aso, who is also deputy prime minister, told reporters. The government also said it is not seeking Aso’s resignation, which some opposition members have demanded.
Aso, who is known for intemperate remarks, drew outrage for saying Japan should learn from how the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany’s pre-World War II constitution before anyone realized it. He also suggested that Japanese politicians should make visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine quietly to avoid controversy. Such visits currently take place amid wide publicity and are a sore point for other Asian nations that suffered under Japanese occupation during World War II.
Aso said Thursday he was misunderstood and only meant to say that loud debate over whether Japan should change its postwar constitution, and other issues is not helpful.
In retracting his comments, he said it was “very unfortunate and regrettable” that his comments were misinterpreted.
Today Aso said he stands by all his other remarks in the speech made earlier this week in Tokyo to an ultra-conservative audience.
Critics of the ruling Liberal Democrats are uneasy over the party’s proposals for revising the U.S.-inspired postwar constitution, in part to allow a higher profile for Japan’s military.
Japan and Nazi Germany were allies in World War II, when Japan occupied much of Asia and Germany much of Europe, where the racial supremacist Nazis oversaw the killings of an estimated
6 million Jews before the war ended in 1945 with their defeat. Japan’s history of military aggression, which included colonizing the Korean Peninsula before the war, is the reason its current constitution limits the role of the military.