Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Merkel speaks to Japanese on post-war reconciliation

AFP, TOKYO

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waded into the fraught area of wartime forgiveness during a visit to Japan yesterday, saying that “facing history squarely” and “generous gestures” are necessary to mend ties.

Merkel was speaking in Tokyo ahead of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, in which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative views on Tokyo’s war crimes are under increased scrutiny, and as China and South Korea continue to call for ever more contrition.

“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 the Second World War would attach great importance to Germany coming to grips with its past,” she said.

“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,” she said.

Relations between Japan and its wartime victims, China and South Korea, are at a low point, with Beijing and Seoul both demanding Tokyo do more to atone for its past.

Nationalists in Japan say Tokyo has apologized enough for the past, and that the constant references to World War II are covering flak for governments in China and South Korea, who are seeking to direct popular anger elsewhere.

The public lecture came on the first day of a two-day trip to Tokyo, her first in seven years, and one that comes after Abe visited Germany last year.

Merkel is scheduled to later visit the Imperial Palace to meet Japanese Emperor Akihito before a formal sit-down with Abe, where a range of issues, including the Ukraine crisis, are expected to be discussed.

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