November 2, 2001

Japanese PM's Shrine Visit: A Move Challenges Justice

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on the afternoon of August 13, paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine enshrined with the memorial tablets of class-A war criminals of World War II. This move has met with the vehement condemnation from Japan's internal far-sighted personages and the people of its Asian neighboring countries, as well as the stern criticisms from some European and American media and celebrities. People cannot but ask: Why can't Japan make genuine introspection of the aggressive wars it launched in history, and give a clear account for the Asian victims?

For a period of time, due to the resolute opposition by Asian neighboring countries, particularly the Chinese government and people, Koizumi avoided visiting the Shrine on August 15 and tried to defend himself, but this cannot change the nature of the problem. This move will inevitably exert serious influence on Japan's relations with its Asian neighboring countries and add to the already affected China-Japan relations that have experienced twists and turns due to the history textbook issue.

Koizumi's Shrine visit greatly hurts the feelings of the Chinese people. Anyone with a slight knowledge of the historical background of the Yasukuni Shrine will understand why the Chinese people oppose Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Shrine. It is well known that Yasukuni Shrine is a tool for deceiving the Japanese nationals and gaining their support and inciting militarist sentiments, it has become the spiritual prop for external aggression and expansion in modern Japanese history. It was the aggressive wars launched by Japan against China and other Asian countries that had caused unheard-of calamities. The Chinese people were the biggest victims of that aggressive war, according to incomplete statistics, as many as 35 million Chinese were killed and wounded under the butcher's knife of the Japanese aggressor troops. Japanese aggressors incurred US$100 billion worth of direct losses and US$500 billion worth of indirect losses to China. The Japanese Prime Minister's brazen visit to the Shrine that symbolizes aggressive war implies a challenge to the generally acknowledged truth and justice and a contempt for the people of war victimized countries, it has aroused the painful memory of the people of victimized countries, the Chinese people express their strong indignation and resolute opposition, isn't this right and natural?

What attitude is taken toward the Yasukuni Shrine that enshrines the memorial tablets of class-A war criminals has always been a touchstone testing whether the Japanese government can correctly approach its history of aggression. How to approach the aggressive war launched by Japanese militarists involves the political foundation for developing China-Japan relations. Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to the Shrine seriously affects the healthy development of China-Japan relations. People remember that at the time of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, the Japanese government expressed deep introspection of the aggressive war launched by Japan and indicated that it would follow the peaceful road. In the Joint Declaration jointly published by China and Japan in 1998, the Japanese side also keenly felt its responsibilities for the serious disasters and losses brought to the Chinese people by the war Japan launched against China. Both China and Japan confirmed that facing up to the past and correctly approaching history is an important foundation for developing China-Japanese relations. On August 15, 1985, when Nakasome Yashuhiro, in the capacity of Japanese Prime Minister, paid his first homage to the Yasukuni Shrine, it aroused the strong indignation and condemnation from the people of the Asian countries. The then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, in his speech delivered in the following year, said, "It is necessary to pay attention to international relations and earnestly consider the national feelings of neighboring countries". He promised that the Prime Minister would from then on not visit the Shrine. This time, the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Shrine not only goes back on the promise the Japanese government has made to the Chinese people regarding the question of history, breaks faith with the Asian countries and people, but also causes serious negative influence on the future development of China-Japan relations. In Japan, the political forces that deny the crime of aggression are still deeply rooted. Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Shrine and other problems concerning history and reality indicate that for a considerably long period of time to come, the question of history will still be an important factor affecting the steady development of China-Japan relation. "Taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future" is still a motto relating to the development of China-Japan relations in the new century.

Around the time of Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Shrine this time, it has aroused the extensive attention of international public opinion, and there has been unceasing comments by the media and far-sighted personages. It is the view of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt that since 1945 the Japanese have seldom made efforts to make neighboring countries reduce their grudge against them, the Japanese lack the sense of admitting their guilt. Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the Singaporean Cabinet has pointed out that if Japan adopts an ambiguous attitude toward its history of aggressive wars, other Asian countries would continue to worry that Japan could possibly once again embark on the road of militarism. French President Jacques Chirac also shows concern for Japan's increasing isolation in Asia. The incisive views of the above-mentioned personages deserve the deep thought of Japan's leading government officials.

Fifty-six years have passed since the conclusion of World War II, and history has stepped into the first August of the 21st century, the move of Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has again drawn the world people's attention to this question: Where will Japan go? Koizukumi indicated in his speech that he would improve relations with Asian neighboring countries. Listening to his words and watching his deeds. People will wait and see.

(People’s Daily 08/14/2001)

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