TOKYO (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday on a visit to Japan, where bitter disputes mark the country's attempts to define its wartime actions, that Germany was able to return to a respected place in the international society because of its efforts to squarely face its World War II atrocities.
But Merkel, at a speech organized by the liberal-leaning Asahi newspaper in Tokyo, said she could not give any specific advice to Japan because lessons should be learned by its own people.
Her comments come as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to deliver a statement later this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. There is speculation that Abe, seen as a revisionist hawk, may water down Japan's 1995 landmark apology over its aggression across Asia.
Merkel said Germany still appreciates the generosity of its neighbors that accepted the country back to the international community despite the horrors of the war and Holocaust.
"Without these generous gestures of our neighbors this would not have been possible. There was, however, also a readiness in Germany to face our history openly and squarely," she said. "It's difficult for me as a German chancellor to give you advice for how to deal with your neighborhood. It has to come out of a process in society."
Japan's relations with its closest neighbors China and South Korea, both victims of Japan's militarism before and during the World War II, have worsened in recent years largely over history and territorial issues. Under Abe's administration, Japan is seen stepping up its effort to whitewash its wartime atrocities.