The Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said on Thursday that Japanese leaders' visits to the Yasukuni Shrine are the major stumbling block to the development of Sino-Japanese relations.
Wang said at a press conference that China always abides by the policy of good-neighborliness and friendship with Japan.
Chinese leaders have made it clear that they hoped, based on the three joint political documents, the two countries will coexist peacefully, be friends from generation to generation and conduct mutually-beneficial cooperation for common development, Wang said.
But it is regrettable that views on historical issues reflected by visits to the shrine are still preventing healthy development of bilateral relations.
Wang said that the core of the issue is that the facility enshrines Class-A war criminals who masterminded and commanded Japan's aggressive war.
The shrine, however, still sticks to the idea that the war launched by Japan in Asia was for self-defense and that the Pacific War was to counter offensives from countries including the US. The shrine also challenges the legitimacy of the ruling made by the International Military Tribunal of the Far East by claiming the war criminals were innocent, he said.
How to deal with issues concerning Class-A war criminals is not only Japan's internal affair, but is related to the political foundation for the resumption of Sino-Japanese relations, Japan's post-war reconstruction and the international order established after World War II, Wang said.
The issue also involves other Asian countries plagued by Japan's aggressive war as well as the international community at large, Wang said.
The ambassador said the Chinese people are tolerant and the Chinese government released Japanese war prisoners jailed in China and waived its claims for damages.
China has no objection to visits to the shrine by ordinary Japanese people to hold memorial ceremonies for their deceased relative, he said, but if Japanese leaders pay homage to the shrine honoring the war criminals, they will greatly hurt the feeling of the Chinese people and damage the political foundation of the two countries' diplomatic relations.
Their practice is obviously unacceptable to the Chinese side, he added.
He said China has opposed visits to the shrine by Japanese leaders since it came to light in 1985 that it honors Class-A war criminals.
In 1986, the then Japanese chief cabinet secretary, on behalf of the Japanese government, made an official statement, saying that Japan's prime minister would give up the practice due to comprehensive considerations, Wang said, adding that on historical issues, Japan should keep moving forward rather than retreating from this stance.
(Xinhua News Agency November 25, 2005)