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Germany’s regret over national conceit

Posted November. 13, 2018 07:33,   

Updated November. 13, 2018 07:33


“National conceit and military arrogance led to the senseless bloodshed of two world wars,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. This is not the first time that the German leadership reflected on the country’s past and expressed regret. Still, Merkel’s remarks send a sharp warning to today’s world as they stress that Berlin’s past wrongdoings, which devastated neighboring countries were the result of protectionism and hegemonism.

Pointing out that World War I showed how isolation could destroy humans, Merkel said that “We know that most of the challenges and threats of today can no longer be solved by one nation alone, but only if we act together.” She also warned that “lack of communication and unwillingness to compromise” can have deadly consequences, in a veiled dig at U.S. President Trump’s protectionism and “America First” policies. Her comments can be also interpreted as a warning to the Japanese administration that has been showing signs of regressing to nationalism and hegemonism, undermining efforts of cooperation and reconciliation in East Asia.

Lawyers seeking compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms during its colonial rule of the peninsula visited the Tokyo headquarters of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal (NSSM) on Monday, but were turned away at the entrance. In 2007, Germany paid 1.7 million people who were forced to work during World War II 6 trillion won in compensation. Despite fierce opposition from the far right, Merkel attended Saturday a ceremony at Compiegne, where Germany signed the ceasefire agreement of World War I. “Today there is a will, and I say this on behalf of Germany, to do everything to bring a more peaceful order to the world,” she said.

The German leadership have continuously apologized for the country’s past for around 50 years since former Chancellor Willy Brandt fell to his knees before a monument to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. For East Asia, beset with decades-old conflicts over historical issues, to move towards the path of cooperation and integration like Europe, Japan should immediately get rid of its regressive mindset and behaviors.