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Japan May Apologize--but Bush Won’t : Anniversary: Tokyo weighs Pearl Harbor resolution. But it will get no reciprocal gesture for Hiroshima.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Japan’s Parliament considered marking the 50th anniversary of its attack on Pearl Harbor with an apology, President Bush, in a taped interview broadcast Sunday, refused to offer a similar gesture for the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki nearly four years later.

“Not from this President. I was fighting over there. I had my orders to go back there when the war ended,” said Bush, who as a World War II Navy pilot was shot down over the Pacific by the Japanese.

The President made his comments in an interview taped last week and broadcast on ABC’s “This Week with David Brinkley.”

He said that “American lives were saved” by President Harry S. Truman’s decision to drop the bombs and added: “Do we mourn the loss of innocent civilians? Yes. Can I empathize with a family whose child was victimized by those attacks? Absolutely. But I can also empathize with my roommate’s mother, my roommate having been killed in action.”

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The Kyodo News Service and Japan Times newspaper reported Sunday that the lower house of Japan’s Parliament is likely by week’s end to adopt a resolution apologizing to its former enemies.

According to the reports, the measure also would express appreciation for the help that a defeated Japan received in recovering from wartime devastation and express its intention to remain peaceful, consistent with its postwar constitutional ban on using force internationally.

The resolution would mark a sharp departure from past Japanese government policy of refusing to concede openly that Japan had been the aggressor in the Pacific war. Emperor Akihito took a step in that direction during an Asian trip last spring, when he expressed regret for the suffering that Japan caused during the war.

On the ABC program, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Taizo Watanabe confirmed that such a move was under consideration in Parliament but said that Japan was not expecting a reciprocal apology for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

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“That is a separate matter,” he explained. “The Pearl Harbor attack memory is something which hangs over the minds of many people, and many people feel that we should do something about it, to reflect on what we have done in the past and what we should do in the future with this memory deep in our mind.”

Watanabe also said that the issue of an apology has sparked “domestic political rivalry,” with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party seeing it as a means of bolstering U.S.-Japanese relations and opposition politicians using it to criticize the government party for straying from pacifist policies.

In recent years, Japan has been under pressure from the United States to take a greater role in international security matters. “There is a feeling that the American approach at the time of the (Persian) Gulf War especially was rather high-handed and unilateral,” Watanabe said.

Administration officials have said they are neither demanding nor expecting an apology from Japan for the Pearl Harbor attack. One senior policy-maker told reporters last week that the White House hopes to use the Pearl Harbor anniversary as an opportunity to “move forward.”

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Yet the attention being given this Saturday’s anniversary has inevitably drawn a new focus on tensions in economic relations between Japan and the United States.

U.S. businesses often contend that this country’s massive trade deficit with Japan is the result of unfair practices by that country. Meanwhile, anti-U.S. sentiment is growing in Japan, where Americans are frequently derided as losing economic ground because they are lazy and decadent.

In the interview, Bush insisted that his own memories of Pearl Harbor are “not in the forefront of my mind” as he deals with Japan.


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