German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken the step of using a speech delivered in Tokyo to give a diplomatic suggestion to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Guardian reports that Merkel’s remarks urged Japan to continue to acknowledge its actions in World War II in order to aid proper healing and progress. The German Chancellor was prompted by speculations that Abe may be about to take a more defensive stance on the matter.
Merkel, who is currently undertaking a two-day visit to Japan, made her remarks during an address at the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Tokyo on March 9, reports BBC News. She drew comparison with Germany’s efforts to reconcile with Europe since the end of World War II, and as reported by Deutsche Welle, more specifically the generous forgiveness of its neighbors.
“This [forgiveness] was possible first because Germany did face its past squarely, but also because Allied Powers who controlled Germany after the second World War would attach great importance to Germany coming to grips with its past.”
“Germany was lucky to be accepted in the community of nations after the horrible experience that the world had to meet with Germany during the period of National Socialism (Nazism) and the Holocaust.”
Specifically referencing the relationship between Japan and its neighbors, The New York Times reports that Merkel concluded the healing of tensions must be a localized process with all parties prepared to participate fully.
“Without these generous gestures of our neighbors, this [acceptance] would not have been possible. There was, however, also a readiness in Germany to face our history openly and squarely. It’s difficult for me as a German Chancellor to give you advice for how to deal with your neighborhood. It has to come out of a process in society.”
Prime Minster Shinzo Abe will make a statement in August 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. However, The Guardian reports that there is concern he plans to weaken the sentiment contained in the official apology issued in 1995 by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which included reference to Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” as part of a “heartfelt apology.” The concerns are aggravated by what some perceive to be conservative Abe’s revisionist approach to Japanese history – preferring positive appraisal of the “post-war contributions to peace” made by the country, rather than a masochistic view of history.
The New York Times reports that the policies of Prime Minister Abe’s administration have been seen as increasing tensions between Japan and its neighbors, South Korea and China. Both countries were victims of Japanese wartime aggression and have highlighted visits made by Prime Minister Abe to the Yasukuni Shrine as evidence casting doubt on the sincerity of Japanese contrition. The shrine commemorates Japan’s dead in the Second World War, but also specifically memorializes individuals that have since been convicted of war crimes.
The content of the upcoming statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to have a resounding impact on the relationship between Japan and its neighbors, but it is unclear whether the Japanese leader will heed the advice of German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding effective steps toward peaceful reconciliation.
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