In a statement aimed at South Korea, Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized Tuesday for Japan’s past colonial rule of Korea. The statement, endorsed by the Cabinet, is a positive step in Japan’s efforts to build a solid relationship with South Korea.

Mr. Kan said, “For the tremendous damage and sufferings that this colonial rule caused, I express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and my heartfelt apology.”

The 100th anniversary of Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty’s promulgation will come Aug. 29. In trying to build a future-oriented relationship with South Korea, Japan must squarely look at this segment of its modern history, which greatly affected the Korean people.

The statement broadly follows the line of socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama’s statement on the 50th anniversary (Aug. 15, 1995) of the end of World War II, which was aimed especially at Asian nations. Referring to Japan’s 36-year colonial rule of Korea, Mr. Kan said “the Korean people were deprived of their country and culture” and “their ethnic pride was deeply scarred.” He stated that colonial rule “was imposed against their will under the political and military circumstances.” He also said Japan will “transfer precious archives” that originated in Korea but were brought to Japan during its colonial rule, such as the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty.

Although he failed to mention the process prior to the annexation treaty in which Japan chipped away at Korea’s independence in a coercive manner, he said: “I would like to face history with sincerity. I would like to have the courage to squarely confront the facts of history and the humility to accept them, as well as to be honest in reflecting upon the errors of our own making.” We hope he will be true to his word.

Some politicians oppose Mr. Kan’s statement. They should remember that without showing remorse for its Asia-Pacific wars and colonial rule, Japan cannot gain the trust of its Asian neighbors. Japan should also reconcile with North Korea. But the North must first follow international standards of conduct.

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