German Chancellor Merkel calls on Japan to face wartime history

German Chancellor Merkel calls on Japan to face wartime history
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center right, meets with Japanese opposition leader Katsuya Okada, center left, in Tokyo.

TOKYO - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's repeated comments on Japan's handling of its wartime past, such as the "comfort women" issue, have sent Tokyo officials scrambling to contain the diplomatic fallout.

Merkel said here Monday that "coming to terms with the past is a prerequisite for reconciliation," referring to Japan's strained relations with Asian neighbours over its wartime aggression. The remarks immediately made headlines here and abroad.

But the chancellor apparently was not done lecturing. On Tuesday, Merkel stressed that Japan-South Korea relations are extremely important and that the comfort women issue and other outstanding differences must be resolved. The comment, made in a meeting with Katsuya Okada, leader of the main political opposition Democratic Party of Japan, was apparently unprompted.

When asked by Okada about reconciliation with neighbouring countries, she reportedly said that "we must constantly square with our past."

Her Monday remarks made front pages in South Korea. Daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo argued in a Tuesday editorial that Germany and Japan had taken opposite paths in clearing up their wartime histories.

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