World media join Merkel in urging Japan to squarely face history

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World media and public have joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in urging Japan to learn from Germany and squarely face up to its wartime atrocities.

In a speech on Monday in Tokyo at the start of her first visit to Japan since 2008, Merkel reminded Japan of the need to squarely face its wartime past.

Her comments came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly whitewashed Japan's war time past. He has been prepared to deliver a statement in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

In an editorial Wednesday, Korea Times said that Merkel's remarks were "roundabout criticism of the Japanese leader who has been glossing over Japan's wartime atrocities," and were proof that Japan was going in the wrong direction.

Germany and Japan have a lot in common historically, "but when it comes to addressing the past, the two countries have taken glaringly different paths over the last 70 years," the editorial added.

"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 said.

The editorial also called on Japan to face history squarely like Germany, saying what is needed most now is to "rewrite a new history of partnership with its neighbors."

South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il on Tuesday also urged Japan to learn from Germany in repenting its history and earning trust from neighboring countries.

"It's a historical lesson that Germany, while looking squarely into the past, has shown repentance and reflection and provided a foundation for reconciliation, cooperation and unity in the European region," he said in response to Merkel's remarks.

Germany's N24 television news channel on Tuesday spoke highly of Merkel's remarks, saying she pointed out the way for Japan by showing them "the German approach."

Germany's public broadcasting radio station Deutschlandfunk said Merkel's comments are of great significance as they can be viewed as "an important signal."

Japanese media and public on Tuesday also urged Abe to face up to history, citing Merkel's words that "facing World War II crimes is key to reconciliation."

"It's a surprise that Merkel, who is always cautious in speech, mentioned history problem directly when visiting Japan," the Asahi Shimbun, which sponsored Merkel's speech, reported Tuesday.

"Merkel cited late German President Richard Von Weizsaecker's famous 1985 speech in which he called the end of WWII in Europe a 'day of liberation', showing clearly that confronting history squarely was the precondition for Germany to be accepted by the international community," head of Japan's Seigakuin University Kang Sang-jung said.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said Merkel's remarks revealed her dissatisfaction with Japan's attitude toward solving relations with neighboring countries. "She hopes Japan's relations with its close neighboring countries will not be worse."

Masaru Kaneko, a professor of Japan's Keio University, criticized Japan's non-action in taking wartime responsibility. "Moreover, the government (of Abe) is trying to rebuild the militarism system. It's truly a setback."

Hailing Merkel's remarks in Japan, China's mainstream newspaper Global Times on Tuesday commented in an editorial that Germany regained its national dignity by facing up to its wartime atrocities, but Japan's global reputation is being eroded because of its refusal to follow Germany's example.

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