Abe must heed Merkel’s wordsGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel was unequivocal in her message to Japan during her recent visit to the nation. “Reflecting on the past is one of the preconditions for reconciliation,” she said on Monday during a joint conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after wrapping up her two-day visit. In an earlier seminar, she urged Japan to squarely confront its wartime history and stressed that Germany was able to work on reconciliation and be welcomed into the European Union after it turned its back on the Nazism of its past.
Merkel stressed that unbiased historical perceptions are the beginning of atonement and the opening of a future in reconciliation in the presence of Abe who has, famously, been criticized for his revisionist views on past aggressions and caused diplomatic tensions with Korea and China.
Speaking a day before International Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 26, Merkel said that there is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity to remind Germans that they must “everlastingly” answer for the crimes of Nazis. But her Japanese counterpart has been doing the opposite, condoning and rationalizing colonial excesses and past aggressions instead of showing sincere remorse and atonement. He referred to Aug. 15 as the day of the end of World War II instead of the day of surrender and defeat. Some speculate he could drop the expression of colonial rule and aggression in his speech to commemorate this year’s 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
Japan has kept to its pacifist legacy ever since the war. Its people are proud of their peaceful postwar heritage. The polls on restoring Japan’s collective military sovereign rights show more people disapprove than approve of the change. Abe’s views and policies have irked not only its neighbours, but worry its people. Abe must listen to Merkel. She quoted late German President Richard von Weizsacker, who called the end of World War II “a day of liberation” for Germans as “it freed all of us from the cynical system of Nazi tyranny.”
In 2015, marking the 70th year of the war’s end, all the countries in Northeast Asia must agree that aggressions by imperialists were crimes against humanity. Only then can Japan be truly free from its past. As Von Weizsacker said, salvation can be sought through “remembering, acknowledging, and accepting responsibility.” This year also marks the 50th anniversary since Korea and Japan normalized diplomatic ties. The two countries are in a stalemate, chained by historical issues. There is no better time to set the tone for the bilateral relationship.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 11, Page 30