Appeasing neighbours not simple: US experts

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering his a statement marking the 70th anniversary of World War Two's end, on Aug 14.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering his a statement marking the 70th anniversary of World War Two's end, on Aug 14.PHOTO: REUTERS

Though Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement has "something for everyone", experts in the US said appeasing Japan's Asian neighbours would not be simple.

Mr James Schoff, senior associate of the Asia Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was impressed by the "emphasis on the power of reconciliation and forgiveness after the war towards Japan".

He said Mr Abe gave a "nod of appreciation for the stance that Americans and Chinese and others took towards Japan after the war that contributed to Japan's recovery and healing", which Mr Schoff has not seen in previous statements.

Ms Yuki Tatsumi, senior associate of the East Asia Programme at Stimson Centre, said the US "will more likely look at his statement as an entire package and not obsesses with the exact wording ".

"The US position on the ongoing friction over history in East Asia is clear: Washington wants the issue to be resolved in order to ensure stability in the region," added Ms Shihoko Goto, senior associate for North-east Asia at Wilson Centre.

Experts noted that while there was "something for everyone", some countries may not be satisfied.

"The statement spends very little time considering Japan's colonial experience and the impact it had on South Korea. I expect that will be viewed as a missed opportunity by Seoul and will not help improve relations very much," said Mr Schoff.

To the US, Mr Abe's speech acts as a barometer of Japan's willingness to build closer and warmer ties with its neighbours.

In particular, "the US wants to see a more stable and productive Japan-Korea relationship... so that we can coordinate North Korea policy effectively," Mr Schoff added.

Experts believe the statement would not change US efforts to encourage all sides to improve ties. The US would continue "to avoid getting in the middle of these historical debates and will not seek to be a mediator", said Mr Schoff.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Appeasing neighbours not simple: US experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe