Tokyo: Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso has retracted comments suggesting Japan should follow the Nazi example of how to change the country`s Constitution, following protests by neighbouring countries and human rights activists.
Aso drew outrage for saying Japan should learn from how the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany`s Constitution before World War II before anyone realised it, and for suggesting that Japanese politicians avoid controversy by making quiet visits to Tokyo`s Yasukuni war shrine.
Speaking to reporters, Aso said on Thursday that 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.
"It is very unfortunate and regrettable that my comment regarding the Nazi regime was misinterpreted," Aso told reporters. "I would like to retract the remark about the Nazi regime."
Aso made the comments about Nazi Germany during a speech on Monday in Tokyo organised by an ultra-conservative group. Critics of the ruling Liberal Democrats are uneasy over the party`s proposals for revising the US-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 six million Jews before the war ended in 1945 with their defeat. Japan`s history of military aggression, which included colonising the Korean Peninsula before the war, is the reason its current Constitution limits the role of the military.
According to a transcript of the speech published by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Aso decried the lack of support for revising Japan`s pacifist Constitution among older Japanese, saying the Liberal Democrats held quiet, extensive discussions about its proposals.
"I don`t want to see this done in the midst of an uproar," Aso said, according to the transcript. Since revisions of the constitution may raise protests, "doing it quietly, just as in one day the Weimar constitution changed to the Nazi Constitution, without anyone realising it, why don`t we learn from that sort of tactic?"
Aso often speaks in a meandering style that has gotten him in trouble for off-the-cuff remarks in the past. He has apologised in the past for accusing the elderly of being a burden on society, joking about people with Alzheimer`s disease, saying the ideal country would be one that attracts "the richest Jewish people", and comparing the opposition Democratic Party of Japan to the Nazis.