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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he does not want differences in interpretation of wartime history between Japan and other Asian nations to develop into diplomatic rows, after his recent remarks fueled further tensions with Tokyo's neighbors.
"I do not want issues related to perceptions of history to cause diplomatic and political problems," Abe told a Diet committee session. "It is appropriate that they are handled by historians or other experts," he said, adding, "I cannot judge like a god."
The premier earlier said in parliament that the word "invasion" has no established definition internationally, a remark that angered some Asian countries that suffered from Japanese wartime aggression, particularly China and South Korea.
Tokyo has said it will issue a statement about Japan's perspective on history in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of its surrender in World War II.
This has caused speculation that Abe, widely perceived to be trying to shift Japanese policies to the right, could significantly change the 1995 statement issued by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizing to Japan's neighbors for its past colonial rule.
At the same time, Abe apparently wants to ease such tensions, also heightened by the recent visits by a number of Japanese lawmakers, including some of his Cabinet ministers, to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
"Discussing historical issues on the political stage leads to diplomatic and political problems," he said.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, meanwhile, called for keeping Japan-South Korea relations under control in the face of a new rupture in bilateral ties over Abe's remarks defending his ministers' Yasukuni visits.
"We must control the relationship in such a way that an individual issue will not affect overall ties," Kishida told reporters.
In a parliamentary session later in the day, he said the dispute over the Yasukuni visits should not affect Japan's ties with either South Korea or China.
China and South Korea, which view the shrine as glorifying Japan's militaristic past, have reacted sharply to the visits.
The shrine honors 14 convicted Class-A war criminals as well as millions of Japan's war dead.
Three members of the Abe Cabinet, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, paid homage at the shrine last weekend. While refraining from paying a visit, Abe dedicated a potted tree to the shrine as an offering.