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Shrine Visits Show a Lack of Respect

Remarks made by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday about the controversial Yasukuni Shrine not only rubbed salt in the wounds of victimized neighbors, but cast doubt on the sincerity of remorse expressed by the Japanese Government about the nation's criminal conduct in World War II. 

During a Lower House budget committee meeting, Koizumi said that while the shrine honoring Japan's 2.5 million war dead includes 14 Class-A war criminals -- among them General Hideki Tojo, Japan's wartime prime minister -- that would not stop him from continuing to pay his respects there.


He stressed his visits to the shrine are to show sympathy for those killed during the war. According to him, other Asian countries should understand and accept.


As a career politician, Koizumi should realize his remarks can easily throw his country into the spotlight of regional criticism, poison its relationship with other Asian neighbors and undermine the current efforts made by Asian countries for enhancing cooperation in the region.


His contempt for the feelings and opinions of neighboring nations is crystal clear.


Despite strong protests from Asian countries that suffered horribly from Japanese military aggression, Koizumi has visited the shrine every year since taking office in 2001, saying he can renew his resolve to create a world free of war by doing so.


It was an irresponsible remark at best, a provocative action at worst.


Visiting a place symbolic of his country's militarist past indicates Koizumi does not acknowledge the criminality of Japan's past aggressions.


It is nothing but hypocritical for the Japanese leader to explain his shrine visits as a move related to a fresh feeling of peaceful wishes.


In the eyes of the victimized peoples, the visits represent a dangerous threat to peace and stability in the region.


China and other Asian nations see the Japanese leader's act as a provocation and a clear proof of the fact Japan remains unrepentant for its blood-stained past.


Progress of the current China-Japan relationship should not be subject to historical issues, but that does not necessarily mean history should be forgotten or ignored.


Koizumi's remarks not only went back on his promise to reflect on the unspeakable pages of Japan's history but also impaired the political basis of Sino-Japanese relations.


Using history as a mirror to reflect on the future is the only correct attitude in this situation.


Only by facing its history squarely can Japan win the trust of its Asian neighbors.


(China Daily February 13, 2004)

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