Japan sacked its air force chief on Saturday after he wrote an essay in which he denied the country was an aggressor in World War 2.
China, the two Koreas and other Asian nations still have searing memories of Japan's aggression and colonial rule, and there had been speculation that General Toshio Tamogami's comments would create antipathy.
"What he said was inappropriate for an air chief of staff. He should not remain in the job," Japan's Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said.
Mr Tamogami, chief of staff of Japan's Air Self-Defence Force, offered the opinion in an essay on the theme of "true views of modern history".
The general 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," Tamogami said.
"It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation."
The Greater East Asia War was a term used by Japan to describe the conflict in the Asia-Pacific theatre, emphasising that it involved Asian nations seeking independence from the Western powers.