High time for Japan to learn from Germany

High time for Japan to learn from Germany
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend their joint news conference after talks at Abe's official residence in Tokyo March 9, 2015.

With German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicking off a working visit to Japan on Monday, Tokyo would not be its opportunistic self if it did not try to turn Berlin into a cheerleader for its bid to be a "normal country".

The Shinzo Abe administration is eager to elevate itself to the rank of Germany on the international stage and exploit Merkel's trip to doctor its ugly image on historical issues and obtain the kind of global respect Berlin enjoys.

But this wishful scheme is just Abe's pipe dream, says a Xinhua News Agency commentary on Monday. For starters, there is no sensible reason for Germany to debase its dignity and throw itself behind Japan's craven and irresponsible historical stance, to which China, South Korea and the broader international community are firmly opposed, and from which even Japan's closest ally, the United States, keeps a good distance.

For another, even if Tokyo could cajole some sort of backing from Berlin for its aspiration to become a "normal country," Germany standing behind it will not help Abe's Japan look any more normal. Instead, it will only reveal how far it is from being that.

For against the backdrop of Berlin's bravery on historical self-reflection, Tokyo's cowardice is all the more conspicuous; against the backdrop of Berlin's sincerity in expressing remorse for its past, Tokyo's brazen impenitence looks ever more shameful.

As the world prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Merkel's visit indeed presents Japan with a unique opportunity. But it is not for Tokyo to manipulate the trip for the purpose of gilding its own image, but to truly learn some historical lessons from Germany.

It is time for Abe to understand that when West German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down at the monument to victims of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, his nation stood up.

It is time for Tokyo politicians to recognise that glossing over Japan's past atrocities and gutting its pacifist Constitution will never enable it to be viewed as a "normal country".

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