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Abe raises militarist spectre
Publication Date : 06-01-2014
China and Britain have a common responsibility to oppose and condemn words or actions invalidating post-war order In the Harry Potter story, the dark wizard Voldemort dies because the seven horcruxes, which contain parts of his soul, have been destroyed. If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul.
On December 26, in flagrant disregard of the feelings of his Asian neighbours, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, paid homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class A war criminals defined as those who committed "crimes against peace" are enshrined. They were among the 28 Japanese political and military leaders convicted by an international military tribunal after the World War II.
The Yasukuni Shrine was established more than 150 years ago, and Asian people know very well how it has since been used by Japanese militarists as a spiritual symbol to launch wars of aggression. In addition, it is deeply offensive to witness convicted war criminals being venerated. These were leaders found guilty of inflicting indescribable suffering on countless individuals during the war. Rightly, within hours of Abe's visit, there were strong condemnations from China, South Korea and across the international community.
Visits to the shrine by Japanese leaders cannot simply be an internal affair for Japan, or a personal matter for any Japanese official. Nor does it concern only China-Japan and Korea-Japan relations. Deep down, paying this kind of homage reveals whether Japan is trustworthy. It raises serious questions about attitudes in Japan and its record of militarism, aggression and colonial rule.
At stake is the credit of that country's leaders in observing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and upholding peace. It is a choice between aggression and non-aggression, between good and evil and between light and dark. Regrettably, what Abe did has raised the spectre of militarism again in Japan.
Abe's track record provides evidence. Since taking office in 2012, he has been talking enthusiastically about justice, democracy, peace and dialogue. But the reality is seen in his actions. He is unrepentant about Japan's militarist past and makes no apologies for it. He has openly questioned whether his country should be defined as an "aggressor", and did his utmost to beautify its history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule.
In May 2013, Abe caused great offence in China and Korea when he was photographed posing in a military jet boldly marked with the number 731: this was the code of an infamous Japanese biological warfare research facility performing human experiments in China during the war.
With these precedents, the world should be very alert. Abe wishes to amend the post-war pacifist constitution, imposed on Japan by the USA. Close attention should be paid to his colleagues, such as Taro Aso, the deputy prime minister, who asserted that Japan could "learn" from Nazi Germany about revising constitutions. Abe has worked hard to portray China as a threat, aiming to sow discord among Asia-Pacific nations, raising regional tensions and so creating a convenient excuse for the resurrection of Japanese militarism.
I explained in a newspaper article the key principles concerning the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, and pointed out the severe consequences of Japan's provocations. This time, I believe Abe has continued his brinksmanship by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine; it has rekindled bitter memories of Japan's past-war crimes.
We know from history that a country that starts a war and ends up in defeat has two options. One is to face up squarely to its past, make sincere apologies and renounce militarism, as Germany did. The German approach has contributed to regional stability and world peace. It has earned respect and acclaim from the whole world.
The other option is to deny past aggression, allow militarism to rise and raise the threat of war. Unfortunately, Abe's actions confirm that he favours the second option: he seems determined to lead Japan on to a perilous path. The international community should be on high alert.
Next week, The Railway Man, a film based on a true story, will be released. It tells the tragic story of a British POW tortured by the Japanese in the Second World War. The film is not only about the atrocities committed by his Japanese captors, but also how one of them is harrowed by his own past. His redemption is only effected through deep remorse and penitence.
China and Britain were wartime allies. Our troops fought shoulder to shoulder against Japanese aggressors and made enormous sacrifices. Sixty-eight years have passed since that horrible war. Yet there are always some incorrigible people in Japan who show no signs of remorse for war crimes. Instead, they seek to reinterpret history. They pose a serious threat to global peace. The Chinese will not allow such attempts. I am sure British and all other peace-loving folk will not remain indifferent.
China and Britain are both victors of the Second World War. We played a key role in establishing the post-war international order that has delivered great benefits for mankind. Our two countries have a common responsibility to work with the international community to oppose and condemn any words or actions aimed at invalidating the peaceful post-war consensus and challenging international order. We should join together both to uphold the UN Charter and to safeguard regional stability and world peace.
The author is the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom. The article was first carried by The Daily Telegraph with the title "China and Britain won the war together".