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Yasukuni Shrine, a Touchstone of Japan's Attitudes towards History and Future
By H.E. Mr. HUANG Xing, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Finland
2014/01/15
 

    The New Year 2014 has just dawned. It marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy which was one of the important turning points of World War II. Now, lessons could still be drawn from that dark episode of history.

 

    Nearly 70 years has passed since the end of World War II. The World has taken on a new look and longstanding peace has been maintained. However, recently there have been some unharmonious voices and actions which threatened to change the post-war international order, trying to erode the principles of world peace and stability.

 

    On December 26, 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine which was a symbol of Japanese militarism in its war of aggression and colonial rule during World War II and still enshrines14 Class-A war criminals convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. By paying tribute to these war criminals, what kind of signals is the Japanese leader sending to other Asian countries and to the people of his own country? One can only draw three logical conclusions: First, waging wars against other countries and killing other people are honorable deeds that should be "revered and remembered". Class-A war criminals could be hailed as "heroes". Second, it is alright to disrespect and challenge post-war international order. Third, Abe does not have to care about the sufferings and feelings of other Asian countries.

 

    It is of course a very dangerous trend that challenges world justice and threatens to weaken and overthrow the post-war international order which is at the root of peace and stability of the past 70 years. The essence of the issue of Yasukuni Shrine is not about paying homage, but a touchstone about Japan's attitude towards its past history of aggression, a touch stone about Japan's courage to assume the historical responsibility, and a touch stone about Japan's will to live peacefully with its neighbors under the framework of the post-war international order. Abe's act has gone too far and posed threats to peace and stability of Asia region and the world. This has set off alarm bells and raised strong concerns across the international community.

 

    It is of course a very dangerous trend as one question has to be asked: by paying homage to the Yasukuni Shrine, where will Shinzo Abe lead the Japanese people to? During the past few decades, a few Japan's leaders of far-rightist nature have repeatedly attempted to glorify the aggressive wars toward victim countries regardless of abundant and irrefutable historical evidence. They describe Japan's aggression as "entering" in the textbooks, and question the legitimacy and verdict of International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and deny the fact of Nanjing Massacre and the existence of "comfort women" for the Japanese soldiers. We believe that the crimes and responsibilities of the war of aggression should be borne by the small number of militarists and the Japanese people are peace-loving and also victims of the war. Yet it is still worrying that immoral state leaders may take the country and the people to evil directions.

 

    It is a sharp contrast that Germany's resolute denouncement of Nazism and sincere repentance of its past war crimes to the victim countries and peoples played a pivotal role in healing the wounds, restoring trust and promoting regional reconciliation, and laid the foundations for peace, stability and common prosperity in post-war Europe. Comparing with Germany's resolution, we may well ask: what did Japan do to self-examine the war crimes committed to the victim countries? What is the future for Japan's relationship with its neighbors? The answers do not seem to be very optimistic and encouraging.

 

    Having entered into the second decade of the 21st century, the international situation continues to be profound and complex. Countries around the world are getting increasingly interdependent. Only with a right approach to history, can the future be embraced. If we want to have a peaceful and prosperous 21st century, then no country should be allowed to whitewash its past aggression and turn back the wheel of history.

 

 

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