In Depth

Hitler 'had the right motives', says Japan's deputy PM

Gaffe-prone Taro Aso apologises for 'inappropriate' reference to Nazi atrocities

Japan's deputy prime minister has apologised for appearing to say that Adolf Hitler's murder of millions during World War Two had the "right motives".

Taro Aso, who is also the finance minister, was addressing a meeting of politicians from the ruling Liberal Democrat party when he made the remark.

"Results are important. Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his motives were right," he said, according to reports in Japanese media translated by the Japan Times.

Aso's words prompted an immediate backlash from Jewish organisations and fellow politicians, with opposition MP Kazunori Yamanoi calling the comment a "massive gaffe" and "incredibly shameful".

Aso seemed surprised at the furore his comments had generated. "It is clear from my overall remarks that I regard Hitler in extremely negative terms, and it's clear that his motives were also wrong," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

However, the 76-year-old minister accepted that his comment - which he said was part of a broader point about the importance of outcome over intentions - was in poor taste.

"It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that," he said.

Repeat offender

Remarkably, this isn't the first time that Aso's admiration for the Third Reich has landed him in hot water, says The Guardian.

Amid criticism of his ruling party's attempt to amend the pacifistic language of Japan's postwar constitution, in 2013 Aso suggested that the government could circumvent protests by making the proposed changes without drawing the public's attention.

"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?" he said in a speech to an ultra-nationalist group.

He later apologised and retracted the comment, which he said had been misunderstood.

In Japan's ordinarily staid political landscape, Aso stands out - although generally for the wrong reasons. The former deputy prime minister is "renowned for his nationalism, his snappy dress and, above all, for putting his foot in his mouth", says Quartz.

His long history of gaffes includes comparing the opposition Democratic Party to Nazis, mistakenly referring to himself as the Prime Minister, and suggesting the only solution to the mounting cost of elderly care was for old people to "hurry up and die".

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