Workers check paper lanterns at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, July 12, 2002. 
Kimimasa Mayama / Reuters

More than 60 years after the end of World War II, chilly relations in East Asia stand in stark contrast to the thaw in western Europe. Germans have spent decades confronting and atoning for the crimes of the Nazi era. Today, Germany is welcomed as a leader in trade and diplomacy, and its military forces fight alongside those of its allies in UN and NATO operations. In 2004, the former Allies invited German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Normandy invasion. Standing beside the leaders of Germany's former adversaries, Schröder celebrated the day as the anniversary of Germany's liberation from fascism. French newspapers, featuring photos of the French and German leaders embracing, proclaimed it "the last day of World War II."

In Asia, by contrast, Japan's neighbors still keep a wary watch over the country that brutalized them in the early part of the twentieth century.

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  • JENNIFER LIND is Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth College. This article is adapted from her book Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics (Cornell University Press, 2008).
  • More By Jennifer Lind