TOKYO (AP) — The Ukrainian government has apologized and removed a photo of Japan’s wartime Emperor Hirohito from a video showing him with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini following Japan’s protest, officials said Monday. .
Japan will continue to support Ukrainians defending their country against Russian invasion despite Hirohito’s “completely inappropriate” portrayal, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said.
The video, posted by the Ukrainian government on Twitter on April 1, called the Russian invasion “reckless”. Below the photos of the three World War II leaders were the words “Fascism and Nazism were defeated in 1945”.
Japan fought World War II in the name of Hirohito, who was revered as a god until he renounced his godhood after Japan’s defeat. Historical assessments of his role in the war remain divided. He is posthumously known in Japan as Emperor Showa.
“To portray Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Showa in the same context is totally inappropriate,” Isozaki told reporters. “It was extremely regrettable.”
Isozaki said Japan protested and demanded the removal of the emperor’s image, which Ukraine did.
“Our sincere apologies to Japan for this mistake,” the Ukrainian government tweeted on Sunday. “We had no intention of offending the friendly people of Japan.”
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, also apologized in a tweet on Monday, saying the video’s creator lacked understanding of the story.
Hirohito’s son, former Emperor Akihito, dedicated his reign to atone for the impact of war in Japan and abroad.
The video was replaced with one without Hirohito’s picture, but many Japanese on social media continued to criticize the original as an insult and said Japan should stop supporting Ukraine. Others said Hideki Tojo, Japan’s wartime prime minister who was later convicted of war crimes and hanged, would have been a better choice than Hirohito for the video.
Some, however, expressed concern that Japan’s request to revise the video was censorship and said Ukraine’s concession set a bad precedent that would encourage Japanese conservatives to further rewrite the history of Japan war.
Japan fears Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have an impact in East Asia, where the Chinese military has become increasingly assertive and has threatened to unite with Taiwan by force claimed by China if necessary. Japan tried to play a bigger role as part of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in response to the invasion, joining a series of sanctions against Moscow and providing support to Ukraine in agreement with the other members.
Japan has provided $300 million to Ukraine and neighboring countries that have taken in displaced Ukrainians, and has also accepted hundreds of evacuees since the Russian invasion in late February.
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