Japan’s armed forces provoke a range of emotions. Founded in the nation’s brutal inherited history with China and South Korea, its more-recent desire to match the military might of its modern economic peers sharply juxtaposes with lessons taught in schoolrooms of an empire that entered into a catastrophic conflict ending with bloody throes on its own shores.
The economic powerhouse is now in the midst of a critical debate. While nations around the world mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Japan’s legislature is weighing a new law that would reinterpret fundamental rules that have governed the country’s military in the wake of surrender in 1945.
“It’s very emotional,” says Yuki Tatsumi, a former special assistant for political affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Washington. She cites “understandable grievances” among South Koreans and Chinese at the historic human rights abuses committed by Japanese powers during previous conflicts.
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