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During his recent visit to the United Nations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reasserted his eagerness to improve relations with Japan’s East Asian neighbors, but the reaction from Beijing and Seoul was tepid.

That’s because in both China and South Korea, Abe is reviled for his revisionist views about the region’s shared history with Japan. He and other reactionaries have convinced the Chinese and Koreans that Japan is monolithically unrepentant about its pre-1945 regional depredations. This is untrue, but Abe’s pernicious whitewashing of this history has derailed relations with nations that already harbor and orchestrate animosity toward Japan over its imperialist excesses stretching from 1895 to 1945.

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