Photo/IllutrationAmerican movie director Oliver Stone in Mansfield, Conn. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

WASHINGTON--An international group of eminent people sent an open letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pin down his view of Japan's role in World War II and ask whether he planned to pay tribute to victims of Japan's wartime aggression in other nations.

The letter, signed by 53 people who have distinguished themselves in various fields, was released online Dec. 25 ahead of Abe’s scheduled Dec. 26-27 visit to Hawaii to commemorate the victims of Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

Abe will visit the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, the first sitting prime minister from Japan to do so.

The letter asked Abe to clarify his interpretation of Japan’s role in the lead-up to and during World War II, citing a remark he made in the Diet on April 23, 2013, about four months after he took power for a second time.

“The definition of what constitutes ‘aggression’ has yet to be established in academia or in the international community,” Abe said during a questioning period.

The letter asked whether his comment means that “you do not recognize Japan’s war against the Allied and Asia-Pacific nations and the preceding war against China as wars of aggression?”

Referring to Abe’s comment that his visit to Hawaii is meant to “mourn the victims,” the letter pointed out that “Pearl Harbor was not the only place Japan attacked that day.”

It further asked: "... will you also be visiting China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations, or the other Allied nations for the purpose of ‘mourning’ war victims in those countries who number in the tens of millions?”

Signatories included U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone, Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University, Tetsuya Takahashi, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tokyo and Ikuro Anzai, a professor emeritus of peace studies at Ritsumeikan University.