Japan’s deputy PM backtracks after praising Adolf Hitler

Taro Aso said the Nazi leader’s ‘motives were right’ even if he killed millions of people

 Japan’s deputy prime minister Taro Aso has a history of gaffes. In 2001, as economics minister, he urged Japan to become a country where “rich Jews” would want to live.  Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Japan’s deputy prime minister Taro Aso has a history of gaffes. In 2001, as economics minister, he urged Japan to become a country where “rich Jews” would want to live. Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

 

Japan’s deputy prime minister has landed himself in hot water again after reportedly expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler.

During a meeting with his faction in the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) on Tuesday, Taro Aso said the Nazi leader’s “motives were right”, even if he killed millions of people.

Mr Aso released a statement on Wednesday saying the remarks, made in the context of a speech about the importance of achieving political results, had been misunderstood.

“It was inappropriate to use Hitler as an example, and I retract that,” Mr Aso said.

“That I am very opposed to Hitler is clear from the entirety of my remarks, and it’s clear that Hitler’s motivations were wrong.”

Mr Aso (76), a former prime minister, caused uproar in 2013 when he jokingly said Japan should learn from the Nazis’ successful attempt to quietly change Germany’s liberal Weimer constitution – which took the country on the path to dictatorship and war.

“Why don’t we learn from that technique?” he told supporters. He later retracted the comments.

Mr Aso is among a group of conservative politicians who are frustrated that successive governments have failed to rewrite Japan’s pacifist constitution.

He controls the second biggest faction in the LDP, giving him a potentially vital role in selecting a successor to Shinzo Abe, the current prime minister. Mr Aso is seen by some as a possible contender to run again.

Foot-in-mouth

He has a long history of foot-in-mouth. In 1979, while still a novice, he advised against trading with the Chinese who he said “had no money”, failing to foresee how utterly dependent Japan would become on China’s economy three decades later.

In 2001, as economics minister, he urged Japan to become a country where “rich Jews” would want to live.

As foreign minister in 2007, it was the turn of Korea and China to feel the lash of that famously loose tongue when he said accusations that Japan enslaved thousands of wartime sex slaves “lacked objective evidence”.

He has also questioned the wisdom of stumping up for elderly healthcare. “Why should I pay tax for people who just sit around and do nothing but eat and lounge about drinking?” he once moaned.

Related to Emperor Akihito by marriage, his grandfather, Yoshida, was a key postwar prime minister and Mr Aso’s wife, Chikako, is the daughter of another prime minister, Zenko Suzuki.

His family owns a mining and cement conglomerate, which has persistently dodged allegations that it used slave labour during the second World War.

Opposition politicians condemned Mr Aso’s latest remarks. Kazunori Yamanoi, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party’s Diet affairs committee, called them “extremely shameful”, according to Kyodo News.

“I cannot help but question his competence [as a minister].”