German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in Tokyo ahead of the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II, reminded the country on Monday of the need to squarely confront its wartime past.
Merkel told a Japanese audience in Tokyo that Germany was lucky to be accepted into 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 acceptance was possible first because Germany faced up to its past squarely and because the Allied Powers who controlled Germany had offered essential gestures of "rapprochement" after 1945.
"One of the great achievements of the time certainly was reconciliation between Germany and France. … The French have given just as valuable a contribution as the Germans have," Merkel added.
Reconciliation from within
Speaking to a gathering at the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Merkel said reconciliation would need to come from them and likely not outside advice.
"It's difficult for me as the German chancellor to give you advice on how to deal with part of your neighborhood," Merkel said when asked about ties between Japan and its neighbors. "But I think history and experience tells us also that peaceful means of reconciliation have to be found.”
Later this year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will give a speech that marks seven decades since Japan's defeat in World War Two, the legacy of which still plagues Tokyo’s ties with China and South Korea.
The statement by Abe will be closely watched by Beijing and Seoul, which suffered under Japanese militarism, as well as Tokyo's close ally, Washington. Countries occupied by Japan still insist the country has not fully apologized and paid compensation for its wartime actions.
But Japanese nationalists say Tokyo has apologized enough, and that the constant references to World War Two are covering flak for governments in China and South Korea who are seeking to direct popular anger elsewhere.
Japan announced its surrender in World War Two on August 15, 1945. The formal surrender ceremony was held on September 2, 1945, aboard the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.
Merkel’s comments came on the first day of a two-day trip to Tokyo, her first in seven years. Abe visited Germany last year. She is visiting G7-member nations ahead of June’s summit, to be held in Germany.
She and Abe also spoke of the current crisis in Ukraine.
Merkel said Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine are jeopardizing the free world order but said diplomacy could still resolve the situation. Abe agreed, stressing that Russia needs to play a constructive role to help bring about a “peaceful and diplomatic solution” in Ukraine.
Some material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.