UN chief urges S. Korea, Japan, China, to reconcile

March 16, 2015
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a symposium of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations at the UN University in Tokyo, Monday, March 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a symposium of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations at the UN University in Tokyo, Monday, March 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

TOKYO (AP) — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea on Monday to work harder for reconciliation over their wartime past to ensure peace and stability in the region.

In his speech in Tokyo marking the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, Ban said the lack of reconciliation among the three key players of Asia that are at odds over wartime history is “a missing link” for peace and stability in northeast Asia despite the U.N.’s engagement. Ban urged Japan and two of its closest neighbors, both victims of Japanese militarist expansion in the first half of the 20th century, to develop forward-looking relations, while remembering the past.

“The United Nations has been engaging in a number of regional cooperative mechanisms but Northeast Asia still remains a missing link,” he said. “I sincerely hope that the dialogue between countries in the region, in particular Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, will proceed in a forward-looking manner.”

“We must lay the ground for genuine reconciliation, harmony, peace and prosperity. In this context, I would urge the leaders in the region to be future-oriented, remembering the past,” he said at the U.N. University after participating in a disaster conference in northern Japan.

Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have worsened in the past few years because of disputes over history and territorial issues, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government seen as increasing efforts to revise the country’s stance on World War II atrocities.

Abe, speaking after Ban, did not directly respond to the secretary general’s request. Abe reiterated that Japan is built on “deep regret over the past war,” without making clear if the regret refers to damage it caused other Asian countries. He quickly moved on to Japan’s contributions as a peace-loving nation, and stressed its longstanding desire to play a more prominent role in the U.N.

With years of commitment and contribution to the U.N., Japan is now “ready to take on a role of a permanent member,” Abe said.

Japan has been calling for organizational reforms that include expanding the Security Council’s permanent and non-permanent membership, but its push for a permanent seat was unsuccessfully largely due to China’s opposition.

Japan has contributed more than $20 billion, only second to the U.S., since joining the U.N. 59 years ago.

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