Merkel Reminds Japan to Face Wartime Past

Merkel Reminds Japan to Face Wartime PastMerkel Reminds Japan to Face Wartime Past

German Chancellor Angela Merkel began a two-day visit to Japan on Monday by reminding Japan of the need to “squarely confront its wartime past” but also signaled that neighboring countries must do their part to achieve reconciliation.

The reminder comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to issue a statement to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, the legacy of which still plagues Tokyo’s ties with China and South Korea, BBC reported.

In a speech at the start of her first visit to Japan since 2008, Merkel referred to a 1985 speech by the late German president Richard von Weizsaecker in which he called the end of WWII in Europe a “day of liberation” and said those who closed their eyes to the past were “blind to the present.”

Asked how Germany was able to reconcile with its one-time enemies after the war, Merkel said, “Without big gestures by our neighbors that would not have been possible ... but there was the acceptance in Germany to call things by their name.”

Feuds over wartime history as well as territorial rows over disputed islands and geopolitical rivalry have frayed Tokyo’s ties with Seoul and Beijing in recent years. Sino-Japanese relations have thawed a little since Abe met Chinese leader Xi Jinping last November but ties with Seoul remain frosty.

Some scholars say that while Japan bears part of the blame for East Asia’s inability to lay the ghosts of the war to rest because its conservative politicians often cast doubt on the sincerity of past apologies, China and South Korea also keep tensions alive because history can be a useful political and diplomatic card.