CHINA, SOUTH KOREA, and JAPAN: To Face the Future, Respect the Past

LEXIE TUCKER WRITES– If China, South Korea, and Japan were humans instead of countries, you might say their relationship status would be “It’s Complicated.” The three are geographical neighbors, and treat each other as such – they are cordial when they need to be, but behind closed doors are not so friendly. Japan’s habit of down-playing the major role they had in atrocities committed during World War II has been a huge barrier to their relationship with one another. That is why Germany, a country which has been able to accept the blame for the Holocaust, is the perfect mentor for its former war- time ally.

On March 9, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to give a lecture on “facing up” to its military past.  Media responses from China and South Korea to the meeting have been strongly worded and definitely convey a sense of animosity.

China Daily, for instance, reprinted a commentary made by Xinhua News Agency  that harshly critiques the Abe administration’s “…‘wishful scheme’ for trying to ‘elevate itself to the rank of Germany on the international stage.’”  The piece states that, “Tokyo’s cowardice is all the more conspicuous against the backdrop of Berlin’s sincerity in historical remorse.”

The reaction from South Korea was of a similar tone.  An editorial in the Korea Times said that Merkel’s comments were “…roundabout criticism of the Japanese leader who has been glossing over Japan’s wartime atrocities…”  In addition to this, the editorial mentioned that, “German leaders have repeated contrition for wartime misdeeds…On the contrary, Japan has reiterated apologies and reversals. Abe, in particular, who came into power in late 2012, has shown such regressive moves and has even denied previous apologies.”

It is clear that both of these countries have and continue to suffer from Japan’s past mistakes. Merkel had wise words for Abe, and it is of vital importance that he take them to heart.  Although she couldn’t provide specific advice on how Japan should proceed in fixing their relationships, she said that “…history and experience tells us…that peaceful means of reconciliation have to be found.”  Hopefully by the time Abe gives his speech in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, he will speak words just as wise and end this feud once and for all.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.