Angela Merkel urge japan to face history Watch
The German chancellor’s diplomatic nudge came amid speculation that Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, may water down previous expressions of remorse in a new official statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, and risk inflaming tensions with its neighbours.
In a speech in Tokyo organised by the liberal newspaper the Asahi Shimbun, Merkel referred to the words of the late German president Richard von Weizsaecker who in a 1985 speech called Germany’s wartime defeat a “day of liberation” and said those who sought to deny Germany’s Nazi past were “blind to the present”.
It is unlikely Abe will welcome even a polite prompt by a fellow leader, but Merkel suggested Japan’s neighbours would also have to enter into the spirit of reconciliation.
German’s rehabilitation, she said, had only been possible because its former enemies were willing to accept that it had confronted its past.
“Without these generous gestures of our neighbours this would not have been possible,” she said. “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 neighbourhood. It has to come out of a process in society.
”Abe has said he will uphold an official apology issued in 1995 by the then prime minister,Tomiichi Murayama, but there is speculation that he could ditch the words“heartfelt apology” and a reference to the country’s “colonial rule and aggression” on the Asian mainland in a new message to be released this summer.
Depending on the statement’s wording, Abe – a conservative who has called on Japan to replace“masochistic” views of its wartime history with a more positive appraisal of its postwar contribution to peace – risks inflicting more damage on ties with China and South Korea, both former victims of Japanese aggression. He has helped reinvigorate historical revisionism at home by questioning the role Japanese troops played in coercing tens of thousands of mainly Asian women to work as wartime sex slaves and the consensus view that Japan’s misadventures in Asia in the first half of the 20th century amounted to aggression.
As prime minister, Abe has visited Yasukuni, a shrine to Japan’s war dead, including leaders convicted as war criminals by the Allies, and has caused disquiet with his plans to reinterpret the postwar constitution to enable troops to play a bigger role in overseas conflicts.
His determination to cast Japan’s war of aggression in a less unfavourable light have beenmatched by attempts by his counterparts in Beijing and Seoul to exploit Tokyo’s apparent lack of contrition to bolster political support at home.
Experts on a panel Abe set up to consider the wording of the new statement say they have been asked to consider Japan’s postwar achievements and were not bound by the language used in previous apologies.
“A 70th anniversary statement issued by the prime minister has a highly political and diplomatic meaning, and we must take that into consideration,” said international politics professor Shinichi Kitaoka, deputy head of the panel and an Abe ally.
In his statement 20 years ago to mark half a century since the end of the war, Murayama, a socialist, said that Japan, “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations”.In a recent interview with Bloomberg, the 91-year old urged Abe to retain references to“aggression” and “colonial rule”.He said: “The prime ministers that came after me all promised to uphold the statement. In a sense,it’s become a national policy.”
Changing the wording, he added, “would mean everything said so far has been a lie”.