The Singaporean prime minister urged Japan on Friday to acknowledge its wartime wrongdoings, while also encouraging South Korea and China to make efforts to move forward.
Lee Hsien Loong made the remarks in his keynote speech at the 14th Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, which kicked off that day for a three-day run.
The forum, hosted by the British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies, brought together defense chiefs and experts from major Asia-Pacific and European countries, including South Korea, the United States, China and Japan.
"After 70 years (of the end of the World War II), it is past the time to put this history behind us properly, like the Europeans have done. This requires statesmanship and largeness of spirit on both sides," Lee said, noting that the war still casts "a shadow over relations between the old adversaries, in particular between Japan and its neighbors, China and Korea."
Pointing out that Japan's position has been "less unequivocal" on such issues as the forced enslavement of Asian women for its wartime soldiers, the prime minister said Japan "needs to acknowledge the past wrongs."
"Japanese public opinion needs to be more forthright in rejecting the more outrageous interpretations of history by right-wing academics and politicians," he stressed.
The prime minister also called on South Korea and China "to accept Japan's acknowledgments, and not demand that Japan apologize over and over again," calling for efforts to move forward to reduce distrust and build up cooperation.
Japan's relationship with South Korea and China has deteriorated after its repeated attempts to whitewash its past wrongdoings and refusal to take proper actions to resolve the deep-running grievances. South Korea was under the harsh colonial rule of Japan from 1910-45.
Lee also spared a large part of his speech to underline the "positive" relations between the United States and China, citing heated disputes between the two giants over the South China Sea.
On the way to Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called on China to stop its ongoing reclamation work in the Sea which was also claimed by such southeast Asian countries as the Philippines and Vietnam.
"Actions provoke reaction," Lee said, warning that the present dynamic "must lead to more tensions and bad outcomes."
Stressing that no country wants to choose sides between Washington and Beijing, the prime minister said, "It is not a zero-sum game. There are elements of competition, but interdependencies and opportunities for mutual benefit." (Yonhap)