by Ambassador Ou Boqian
On December 26, 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe blatantly paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine. This act brazenly affronted the Asian victims of the Japanese militarist aggression and colonial rule, and confronted with strong opposition and condemnation from the international community – especially from the Asian countries including China.
Yasukuni Shrine is the place where 14 Class-A war criminals and more than 1000 Class-B and Class-C war criminals are worshiped. The 14 Class-A war criminals-most of whom were hanged by order of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, were secretly enshrined in 1978 and honoured as “martyrs” by the Yasukuni Shrine after WW II.
Among those were HidekiTojo,Kenji Doihara, Iwane Matsui, Akira Muto and Heitaro Kimura, whose names were notorious as they were the ones who created massacres in Nanking, Manila and Burma by their own hands. In fact the Shrine has become a spiritual tool and symbol of Japanese militarism during WW II.
Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine has never been and cannot be an internal affair of Japan. During WW II, Japan’s militarist aggression against Asian countries including China inflicted tremendous catastrophe and damages to the people of those victimised nations and became their most painful memories.
China suffered huge from Japan’s militarism and war of aggression since Sino-Japanese War of 1895 to the end of WW II. The invading Japanese army committed the Nanjing Massacre and many other heinous atrocities, which sacrificed 35 million casualties and 600 billion US dollars losses. Only in Nanjing in December 1937, more than 300 thousand Chinese were massacred- more than 20 thousand women were raped and one-third of the whole city of Nanjing was burned and reduced to ashes.
The brutal and barbarous act lasted for 6 weeks. The miserable memory brought by the Japanese is just like a scar in the hearts of the Asian people including Chinese. Abe’s visit to the Yakusuni Shrine to pay homage to the World War II war criminals re-prods the wounds in Asian people’s hearts.
Even though, Chinese are tolerant and merciful people. Instead of continuing the hatred, China aims to develop normal ties of neighborliness and friendship with Japan, to cherish the hard-won peace and avoid to repeat the historical tragedy. When China and Japan normalized their diplomatic ties in 1972, the Chinese leadership made an important decision not to seek war reparations from Japan in the spirit of inclusion and reconciliation.
The relatively friendly relations between China and Japan lasted for about 3 decades afterwards until the end of last century when the Japanese economy started a long recession and the whole society in Japan suffered from a strong national feeling of agitation.
It was against this background, a group of right wing politicians represented by the former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the current one Shinzo Abe emerged and a tough foreign policy was adopted. Denying the history of invasion to the Asian countries was part of this foreign policy.
Abe’s visited to Yasukuni Shrine to show “respect” and “homage” to the war criminals is a strong demonstration of Japanese government’s policy of refusing to assume historical responsibilities or own up to Japan’s past crime. Instead some Japanese went even further to claim that he “takes pride in” Japan’s history of the WW II. This has severely damaged and overturned the political foundation of China-Japan relations.
Abe’s visit to the Shrine strongly challenges the world order established after the Second World War. Abe’s reiterated on several occasions that “There is no definitive answer either in academia or in the international community on what constitutes aggression. Things that happen between countries appear different depending on which side you’re looking from”.
It’s to question the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trial in 1945 and attempt to overturn the just trial of Japanese militarism of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. It’s brazenly denying and provocations to the post-war international order. Even to date, it still openly clings to its claim that aggression is “Justified” and does its utmost to trumpet the militarist view of history, It dresses aggression and colonialism by hiding the truth, attempts to overturn the just trial of Japanese militarism and advocates body-bombing and terroristic attack.
Abe’s visit to the Shrine certainly aroused strong dissatisfaction and opposition from the international community. The UN Secretary General Pan Ki-Moon voices regret over the visit, demanding that Japan should “be sensitive to the feelings of others, especially memory of victims”.
The government of South Korea expressed anger over Japan, taking strong countermeasures. Russia declared its opposition against Abe’s act. Singapore and Pakistan regret over Japan’s act which is not conducive to the trust and confidence building in the region. The EU and Vietnam join the international community to express concerns over the visit, hoping Japan comes back to the proper stance.
Statements were issued by the US State Department and the US embassy in Japan to show disappointment and dissatisfaction towards Abe. As observed in the New York Times regarding his visit to the Shrine, Abe is asserting Japan’s track away from its postwar pacifism and his deeply revisionist views of history cannot inspire confidence that Tokyo can play a bigger security role in Asia.
China always believes that taking history as a mirror could serve as the guidance to the future. We believe that only by facing it squarely, can we embrace the future. Also as a starter of WWII, Germany’s profoundly repentance towards the history and unequivocal denouncement of Nazism wins the forgiveness of the victim countries and the respect and trust of the world, which is in sharp contrast with the act of the Abe administration. Germany prime minister restated that Germany should assume eternal responsibilities for Nazism crimes and inherit such Introspection by generations.
The purposes and principles of the UN Chapter must be complied with by all members of the UN. Only by upholding a correct historical view, bravely repenting history like Germany, sincere apologising to the Asian people, returning to pacifist Constitution and never waging war again, can Japan become a political power and truly make contributions to the world peace and development. The road of militarism dooms a road of dead end.
(Her Excellency Ou Boqian is the resident Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Grenada)