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Japan

Mend wounds of WWII, urges Merkel in Tokyo

Chancellor Merkel has encouraged Japan to mend post-war ties with its Asian neighbors by saying Germany had "squarely" dealt with its Nazi past. Merkel is visiting Japan ahead of her hosting June's G7 summit in Bavaria.

Angela Merkel was received in Tokyo by Emperor Akihito (pictured above) and then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday after addressing the two countries' World War Two militarism during a speech organized by the liberal-leaning Asahi newspaper.

Merkel's welcome by Abe was shifted indoors because of rain.

Her remarks precede a statement on Japan's defeat 70 years ago due later this year from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe's words are likely to be scrutinized by China and South Korea which in the past have cast doubt on the sincerity of Japanese atonement. Nationalists in Japan claim Tokyo has apologized enough.

Japan Angela Merkel mit Premierminister Shinzo Abe in Tokio

Abe is expected to make his own comments on the war later this year

Merkel told her Tokyo audience that Germany's neighbors in Europe, especially France, had offered essential gestures of "rapprochement" after 1945.

"This was possible first because Germany did face its past squarely, but also because the Allied Powers who controlled Germany after the Second World War would attach great importance to Germany coming to grips with its past," she said.

"Germany was lucky to be accepted in the community of nations after the horrible experience that the world had to meet with Germany during the period of National Socialism (Nazism) and the Holocaust," she added.

She referred to a renowned speech given in 1985 by the late German president, Richard von Weizsäcker, in which he called the end of WWII in Europe on May 8, 1945 a "day of liberation."

China seeks 'sincerity'

On Sunday, China's foreign minister Wang Yi said Abe would be welcome at Beijing's commemorations of the end of WWII, if he was "sincere" about history.

Japan Angela Merkel mit Roboter Asimo in Tokio

Merkel and the automated ambassador Asimo shook hands and even knocked a football about in Tokyo

Beijing regards September 3, 1945, as its day to remember, one day after Japan signed its surrender to Allied forces on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Robotics and renewables

On a lighter note, Merkel was "greeted" by the robot Asimo at Tokyo's Miraikan futures museum with a demonstration of his football kicking ability.

During a discussion with students and professors, she reiterated Germany's decision in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster almost four years ago to phase out its nuclear power plants by 2022 and opt for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar capture.

"For me, Fukushima was a life-changing experience because Fukushima happened in a country that has a very high level of technical quality," she said, adding that for a long period she had supported nuclear power.

Japanese authorities have authorized the reactivation of four of Japan's 48 idle nuclear power plants.

Merkel encouraged her host scientists and students to spend time in Germany, saying there were numerous possibilities for joint research work involving the world's third and fourth-largest economies.

Female poverty highlighted

Merkel hosts this year's G7 summit of the world's seven major industrial powers in Bavaria in June. Her visit to Japan is her first since 2008.

On Sunday, to mark International Women's Day, 36 prominent women, including Beyonce Knowles and Meryl Streep, submitted a petition to Merkel, calling on her to use the G7 summit to tackle female poverty.

ipj/msh (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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