'Hitler Had Right Motives' Comment Lands Japan's Deputy Prime Minister in Trouble

Taro Aso
Japan's finance minister, Taro Aso, arrives at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo on August 3, 2016. Aso sparked outrage after saying that Adolf Hitler had "right motives." Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo/Reuters

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso sparked outrage Tuesday after suggesting that the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who persecuted millions and sought the extermination of the Jewish people, had the "right motives."

The comment was made in an address to lawmakers of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to provide an example that politicians are remembered for the results they achieve regardless of their motivations.

"Hitler, who killed millions of people, is no good even if his motive was right," Aso said, as quoted by the Japanese Kyodo news agency.

The remarks sparked outrage, and the main opposition Democratic Party questioned his suitability for his two roles—Aso is both deputy prime minister and minister of finance.

Aso then issued a statement clarifying his position on Hitler's crimes and retracting his comments.

"It was inappropriate to use Hitler as an example, and I retract that," Aso said, according to the statement quoted in Reuters. "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."

"My comments differ from my feelings, and it's regrettable that they caused misunderstanding," he added.

But it wasn't Aso's first so-called "gaffe" involving Hitler or the Nazi regime, with whom the Japanese Empire sided during World War II. In discussing Japan's constitutional revision in July 2013, Aso spoke of how his country could learn from the Nazis, who had changed Germany's Weimar constitution "unnoticed."

"Why don't we learn that technique?" Aso said. He later withdrew his remarks.

The conservative minister also has a long history of making headlines for other controversial comments. In 2016, he wondered aloud how long a 90-year-old pensioner intended to keep living.

In 2006, Aso provoked China's anger suggesting the Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan was the reason why the island currently enjoys high educational standards. And in 2001, he shared his ambition to turn Japan into a place where "the richest Jews would want to live in."