The haunt of history in Japan’s foreign relations

Authored by: Jennifer Lind

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415551373
eBook ISBN: 9780203829875
Adobe ISBN: 9781136818387


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History weighs heavily upon East Asian international relations. Japan’s neighbors press Tokyo for apologies and reparations for its Second World War era aggression and atrocities. Regional security cooperation—such as nuclear counterproliferation, anti-piracy, or disaster relief efforts—is complicated or thwarted by lingering distrust fueled by Japan’s perceived failure to admit its past violence against its neighbors. This distrust obstructs Japan’s ability to contribute to international peacekeeping missions, and to perform missions within the U.S.-Japan alliance. The haunt of history also stymies Tokyo’s ability to play a role as a regional and world leader. The Chinese and Koreans oppose Japan joining the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member: South Korea’s UN Ambassador Kim Sam-hoon argued that Japan could not lead because it lacked the trust of its neighbors (Korea Herald, 2 April 2005). Many analysts have argued that Japan’s failure to “come to terms with its past” has inhibited Japanese leadership and regional reconciliation (Berger 2003; Kristof 1998; Christensen 1999; Kydd 1997).

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