Merkel tells Japan to face its World War II past 'squarely'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, referring to her own country’s experience, reminded Japan on Monday of the need to confront squarely its wartime past.
The polite reminder comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to issue a statement marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.
The statement will be watched closely by Beijing and Seoul, which suffered under Japanese militarism, as well as Tokyo’s close ally, Washington.
Abe has said he intends to express remorse over the war and that his Cabinet upholds past apologies. But it is unclear whether he will repeat the “heartfelt apology” and reference to “colonial rule and aggression” in his statement.
In a speech at the start of her first visit to Japan since 2008, Merkel referred to a 1985 speech by late German president Richard von Weizsaecker in which he called the end of World War II in Europe a “day of liberation” and said those who closed their eyes to the past were “blind to the present”.
Merkel said Germany was able to return to a respected place in international society because of its efforts to face up squarely to atrocities in the war.
But she said she could not give any specific advice to Japan because lessons should be learned by its own people.
“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,” she said.
“This was possible first because Germany did face its past squarely, but also because the allied powers who controlled Germany after World War II attached great importance to Germany coming to grips with its past.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday that Beijing will welcome any leaders who are “sincere about coming” to its military parade and other events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. He had been asked if Japan was invited.