Politician Says US Forced
Japan Into World War Two
By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - A senior Japanese politician's claim that Japan was forced into World War Two by the United States has been condemned by an opposition leader as wrong and irresponsible.
Former defence minister Hosei Norota's statement that Japan was not to blame for its entry into the war also brought a furious reaction from South Korea, a onetime a Japanese colony.
The remarks were also expected to inflame other countries across Asia that were invaded by Japan's Imperial Army in the 1930s and 1940s and to exacerbate the problems of embattled Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
"Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries, Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources," Norota, who is chairman of the Budget Committee of the powerful Lower House of parliament, was quoted by domestic media as telling supporters of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Sunday.
"In other words, Japan had fallen prey to a scheme of the United States. This is what many historians are saying," he said in remarks reminiscent of the justification used by Japanese militarists in the 1930s for their invasion of much of Asia.
South Korea, which suffered Japan's harsh colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, urged Tokyo to act responsibly so as not to hamper improving relations between the two countries.
"We regret Norota's remarks which glamorised the war and distorted the pain of Asian countries," the South Korea Foreign Ministry said in a statement
"His remarks are not desirable for Japan or for bilateral cooperation," it said
A senior official in Japan's main opposition Democratic Party, Hirotaka Akamatsu, told reporters that Norota's remarks were "erroneous, irresponsible and anachronistic," Kyodo news agency said.
The Democrats and three other opposition parties -- already out to topple the unpopular Mori -- were considering whether to submit a no-confidence motion against Norota.
"It is entirely possible that there will be an international reaction, especially in Asia," Democratic Party senior executive Tsutomu Hata told a news conference.
Mori himself declined to directly comment on Norota's remarks when pressed in a budget panel debate, but he said the government stood by the statement made by then- Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
Murayama, a Socialist, came closest to a formal apology for Japan's wartime actions when he said: "To forgo any mistakes in the future, I accept the truth of this history which cannot be doubted, and I would like to express anew my deep reflection and sincere apologies."
Chikara Sakaguchi, a member of ruling coalition partner New Komeito who holds the health, labour and welfare portfolio in Mori's cabinet was also pressed for his views.
"In my personal view, there were aggressive actions towards countries such as China and then there was a reaction to that from Europe and the United States and as a result it developed into the Pacific War," Sakaguchi said. "There are various views, but this is what I think."
Mori already faces the biggest crisis of his 10-month rule amid mounting talk that he will have to resign next month.
The question mark over who will run Japan comes amid growing concern over the nation's faltering economy and tense ties with the United States after a U.S. submarine hit and sank a Japanese training ship off Hawaii, leaving nine missing and presumed dead
Mori's own troubles began last May with a similar remark.
Just a month after taking office, he set off a firestorm of criticism by calling Japan "a divine nation with the emperor at its core". The comment revived uncomfortable memories of Japan's wartime ideology of emperor worship and sent his support ratings of just under 40 percent into a downward spiral.
In his speech, Norota also called the war the Greater East Asia War, a term that sparks anger among Japanese for its militarist overtones reminiscent of the wartime government.
Norota's remarks were also likely to anger China, parts of which were also occupied by Japan in the years up to and during World War Two. Japan's armies also invaded Southeast Asia as it pursued its expansionist ambitions by saying it wanted to set up what it called the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

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