Abe told to face up to wartime past

Ja­pan PM says re­la­tion­ship with China like that be­tween Bri­tain and Ger­many in 1914

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing, CAI HONG in Tokyo and FU JING in Davos, Switzer­land

Ja­pan was urged by China on Thurs­day not to for­get its wartime acts af­ter Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe com­pared the Sino-Ja­panese re­la­tion­ship to ri­valry be­tween Bri­tain and Ger­many on the eve of World War I.

Abe made the comment to jour­nal­ists at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land, on Wed­nes­day.

He said China and Ja­pan are in a “sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion” to that of Bri­tain and Ger­many be­fore the Great War started in 1914.

Bri­tain and Ger­many had strong trade ties but this did not pre­vent the out­break of war, Abe said.

Ja­pan’s Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said at a news con­fer­ence in Tokyo on Thurs­day that he did not know the de­tails of Abe’s re­marks, but said Abe had by no means meant that a war be­tween Ja­pan and China was pos­si­ble.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Qin Gang said in Bei­jing that the Ja­panese leader’s mem­ory of his­tory “should not be mis­placed”.

The tre­men­dous dam­age brought by Ja­pan’s “fas­cist war­fare to vic­tim­ized na­tions in­clud­ing China” should not be for­got­ten, Qin said.

“Rather than com­ment­ing on the Bri­tain-Ger­many re­la­tion­ship be­fore World War I, (the Ja­panese leader) had bet­ter face up to his­tory and make a heart­felt re­pen­tance for what Ja­pan did to China be­fore World War I and through­out en­tire con­tem­po­rary his­tory,” Qin said.

Abe in­fu­ri­ated China and South Korea and drew global crit­i­cism af­ter he vis­ited the Ya­sukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Dec 26. The shrine hon­ors 14 Class-A war crim­i­nals from World War II.

Wang Ping, a re­searcher in Ja­panese po­lit­i­cal stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the Bri­tain-Ger­many com­par­i­son may be Abe’s lat­est “lame” anal­ogy fol­low­ing his comment com­par­ing the Ya­sukuni Shrine to the Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery in Wash­ing­ton.

“By men­tion­ing his­tor­i­cal de­tails that sound fa­mil­iar to the West, Abe is try­ing to bluff au­di­ences in Davos and shift blame onto China,” Wang said.

Bonji Ohara, a re­search fel­low at the Tokyo Foun­da­tion, an in­de­pen­dent, not-for-profit think tank, said the Ya­sukuni Shrine “is not an equiv­a­lent” to Ar­ling­ton, adding, “Abe’s Ya­sukuni visit is po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­ganda.”

Mindy Kotler, di­rec­tor of the Wash­ing­ton-based re­search cen­ter Asia Pol­icy Point, said in her lat­est on­line ar­ti­cle, “Al­though both were the re­sult of civil wars, Ya­sukuni now fo­cuses on the ide­al­iza­tion of the Pa­cific The­ater in World War II, while Ar­ling­ton records the con­tin­u­ing sor­row of a na­tion.”

Zhou Yong­sheng, a pro­fes­sor of Ja­panese stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said Ja­panese pol­i­cy­mak­ers, for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses, are “tak­ing ad­van­tage of Ja­panese peo­ple’s nat­u­ral feel­ings in mourn­ing their an­ces­tors to jus­tify the visit” to the shrine.

In Davos, Abe re­it­er­ated that he vis­ited the shrine to make a no-war pledge.

He also crit­i­cized China’s in­creased mil­i­tary spend­ing as be­ing a ma­jor source of in­sta­bil­ity in the re­gion, say­ing, “We must ... re­strain mil­i­tary ex­pan­sion in Asia, which could oth­er­wise go unchecked.”

In De­cem­ber, the Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proved two doc­u­ments and a mid-term de­fense plan for 2014-18, aimed at China.

Ohara said: “The Ja­panese Na­tional De­fense Pro­gram guide­lines and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strategy are a de­lib­er­ate provo­ca­tion against China. This is of great dis­ser­vice to bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.”

John Chip­man, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies, told Reuters that the best prospects for avoid­ing an es­ca­la­tion of dis­putes be­tween China and Ja­pan lie in quiet mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary dis­cus­sions to seek con­fi­dence-build­ing mea­sures.

On Thurs­day, the Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice re­leased Abe’s Chi­nese New Year greet­ings to Chi­nese na­tion­als in Ja­pan. These will be pub­lished by two Chi­nese-lan­guage news­pa­pers in Ja­pan on Jan 30, Lu­nar New Year’s Eve.

Abe said in the greet­ings that sep­a­rate is­sues should be “well con­trolled” to avoid them in­flu­enc­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, reit­er­at­ing that “my door to­ward di­a­logue is open”.

But Tomi­ichi Mu­rayama, Ja­panese prime min­is­ter from 1994 to 1996, dis­agreed.

“If the door were re­ally open, he should have said, ‘Wel­come, please come in’. He should def­i­nitely es­tab­lish cir­cum­stances in which a guest is com­fort­able. This is not good,” Mu­rayama told China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion in Tokyo on Wed­nes­day.

Abe is tak­ing ac­tions that are to­tally con­trary to his words, “which is ex­tremely im­po­lite,” Mu­rayama said. Con­tact the writer at zhangyunbi@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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