Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, the “history issue” still comes between Japan and the countries in Asia that it invaded, hindering efforts at reconciliation. For example, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently angered South Korea and China yet again when he dedicated an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial Shinto religious site that honors Japan’s war dead, including 12 Class A war criminals from World War II.
When Japan’s critics argue that the nation has not apologized for its World War II-era atrocities, they often ignore the fact that Japan signed a series of bilateral agreements in the 1950s and 1960s with Southeast Asian governments on wartime compensation. These agreements sometimes took the form of technological or economic assistance, but it was understood that they were meant to serve as wartime compensation.
Moreover, when Japan and South Korea signed a treaty in 1965 normalizing diplomatic relations, they also signed a separate agreement for Japan to provide financial aid to Seoul, in return for South Korea relinquishing its right to claim wartime compensation. Likewise, the Chinese government relinquished its right of pursue claims for wartime compensation after gaining the possession of Japanese assets in China at the end of the war.