This year, Japan cohosts the World Cup soccer finals with South Korea and marks the 30th anniversary of normalizing diplomatic ties with China. In 2001, however, bilateral relations were overshadowed by issues related to Japan’s wartime past. This is the first article in an occasional series that will assess Japan’s prospects of building truly close relationships with its northeast Asian neighbors.

Japan’s past came back to haunt it in 2001, leaving the nation to deal with soured relations with northeast Asian neighbors South Korea and China and placing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the defensive as he jetted abroad in an effort to make amends.

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