chapter  5
Historical reconciliation in Southeast Asia: notes from Singapore
Pages 19

In stark contrast to Korea and China, Southeast Asian countries remember their experience of Japanese aggression during World War II (WWII) and approach questions of historical reconciliation and inherited responsibility in very different ways. The most obvious difference is that of absence. While questions of war memory, compensation, accountability, and guilt remain present and are highly contested issues in the relationship between China, Japan, and Korea, these same issues are conspicuously absent from Southeast Asian countries’ relationship with Japan. Southeast Asian countries enjoy generally amicable relations with Japan both individually, and collectively as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), in which questions of Japanese aggression and occupation in WWII are seldom raised.1

As WWII continues to haunt and cast a shadow over Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia appears to have “moved on,” looking to Japan as an important international partner and encouraging it to take a leadership role in the region.2 Issues relating to Japanese conduct in WWII do not generally trouble ASEAN’s relationship with Japan and Southeast Asian countries do not generally pursue questions of Japan’s historical responsibility.3