Japan’s gaffe-prone deputy prime minister on Friday rejected calls for his resignation after stoking international condemnation by saying Tokyo could learn from the Nazis’ swift overhaul of Germany’s constitution.
Taro Aso, who is also Japan’s finance minister, added that he had no plan to apologise, as he repeated a day-earlier retraction of his comments which he chalked up to a “misunderstanding”.
Responding to criticism from the country’s left-leaning opposition parties, Aso told a news briefing that “I have no intention to resign” for the remarks, which riled neighbours China and South Korea and drew a swift rebuke from a US-based Jewish human rights group.
Tokyo has moved to distance itself from Aso’s comments on Monday to a conservative think-tank, as Japan mulls a change to its pacifist constitution which was imposed by the United States and its allies in the aftermath of World War II.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party has said it wants to upgrade Japan’s self-defence forces into a full-fledged military, with some advocates citing the threat of a belligerent North Korea and China’s military buildup.
The reform idea has jangled nerves among Japan’s regional neighbours who say Tokyo has never come to terms with its own militaristic past, including the brutal 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.
On Monday, Aso pointed to a stealth overhaul of the German constitution which cemented the Nazis’ grip on power, as Tokyo faces vocal opposition over its own reform push.
“First, mass media started to make noises and then China and South Korea followed suit,” Aso was quoted by Japanese media as saying.
“The German Weimar constitution changed, without being noticed, to the Nazi German constitution. Why don’t we learn from their tactics?”
Days later, Aso insisted he had been misunderstood and that he was not praising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s political prowess, but rather saying constitutional reform should be not be influenced by media criticism or animosity from Japan’s neighbours.
Japan and Nazi Germany were allies during WWII.
“It is regrettable that my remarks over the Nazi administration led to a misunderstanding, which was not my intention,” Aso said Thursday, as he retracted his comments.
“It is clear from all my remarks that I have an extremely negative view of the events involving the Nazis and the Weimar constitution.”
Aso is known for his sometimes clumsy and uncomfortable remarks, including saying earlier this year that elderly people should “hurry up and die” to avoid taxing the country’s medical system.