Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Japan air force chief faces sack

Gen Toshio Tamogami - Pic Australian Defence Department
Gen Toshio Tamogami's essay was published on a website

The head of the Japanese air force is to be sacked after saying the country was not an aggressor in World War II, Japan's defence minister said.

Yasukazu Hamada said Gen Toshio Tamogami's views, written in an essay, ran counter to the government's position on the war.

"Therefore it is inappropriate for him to remain in this position and I will swiftly dismiss him," he said.

The general's views are likely to anger many of Japan's neighbours.

China, North and South Korea and other Asian nations still have traumatic memories of Japan's aggression and colonial rule.

Japan expressed remorse for its wartime actions in 1995, and then gave another apology 10 years later.

Acting swiftly

Mr Hamada said that by acting swiftly against the general, the Japanese government was making it clear that it did not share his views which, he said, could stir controversy in Asian nations.

"What he said was inappropriate for an air chief of staff," Mr Hamada told a news conference.

"He should not remain in the job."

Gen Tamogami, 60, is chief of staff of Japan's Air Self-Defence Force.

Ships burn in attack on Pearl Harbor
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the US into World War II

In his essay on the theme of "true views of modern history", he wrote: "Even now, there are many people who think that our country's 'aggression' caused unbearable suffering to the countries of Asia during the Greater East Asia War.

"But we need to realise that many Asian countries take a positive view of the Greater East Asia War.

"It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation."

World War II in the Asia-Pacific region is referred to as the Greater East Asia War by those who saw it as Asian nations seeking independence from Western powers.

Gen Tamogami said that Japan's military action in China in the early 20th century was based on treaties, and that the Korean peninsula had been "prosperous and safe" under Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule.

He also argued that Japan was drawn into World War II by then US President Franklin D Roosevelt.

He said Roosevelt had been manipulated by the Comintern, the international communist organisation founded in Moscow in 1919.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is also known for his conservative views on history, said the general's viewpoint was inappropriate "even if he expressed it personally".

After its defeat in World War II, Japan renounced the right to wage war. It calls its military the Self-Defence Forces.

However, correspondents say that despite its pacifist position, Japan's neighbours are closely watching for any sign of a militarist revival.

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