TOKYO- Japan's gaffe-prone deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso apologized Thursday after suggesting that Tokyo could learn from Nazi Germany, which he praised for quietly rewriting that nation's constitution.
“What I said in reference to the Nazi administration did not reflect my true intention, and it is very unfortunate that it caused a misunderstanding,” he said.
Germany and Japan were allies during the war.
At a symposium earlier in the week, Aso referred to the legislative skill and tactics of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government, which followed the chaos of the Germany’s parliamentary representative democracy set up in 1919.
Aso retracted his remarks, apologizing for what he called an “inappropriate analogy,” and in a rather confusing account explained that his comments were meant to show how a constitution could be revised without public consent or debate.
“What I meant to say is that ... revising the constitution is something that has to be debated properly and calmly,” Aso told reporters. “But the fact that I used the Nazi administration as an example is something that I would like to retract.”
Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party's is trying to reform the nation's constitution. Among the changes being muted are provisions to allow for a more expanded military role for Japan's Self Defense Forces, which make Japan’s neighbors China and South Korea nervous.
"We urge the Japanese government and economic and political senior leaders to be more cautious in future about what they do and say," South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young said in reaction to Aso's initial comments.
Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, said: "The only lessons on governance that the world should draw from the Nazi Third Reich is how those in positions of power should not behave.”
Aso’s own party also distanced itself from the remarks.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government has never seen Nazi Germany in a positive light. Since the end of the World War II, Japan has built a nation which ensures peace and human rights and will continue to make international contributions based on those principles, he added.