China criticises Japan after Shinzo Abe honours war criminals as martyrs

Publié le par The Guardian by Justin McCurry in Tokyo

China criticises Japan after Shinzo Abe honours war criminals as martyrs

Japanese prime minister’s message of tribute prompts Beijing to call for ‘clean break’ with second world war militarism.

Shinzo Abe wrote a message praising convicted Japanese war criminals as martyrs

Shinzo Abe wrote a message praising convicted Japanese war criminals as martyrs

China has urged Japan to “make a clean break with militarism” and build trust with its neighbours after it emerged that the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had honoured more than 1,000 convicted war criminals as “martyrs” who laid the foundations for modern Japan.

Reports of the tribute, made in April in a message Abe sent to an annual ceremony honouring war criminals at a Buddhist temple, only emerged this week and add to the strains on ties between Tokyo and Beijing.

“The Japanese government needs to sincerely reflect on its history of aggression and make a clean break with militarism, that provides an important foundation for Japan to rebuild and develop relations with its Asian neighbours after the war,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

“We urge Japan to abide to its commitment to post-war non-aggression and take practical action to win the trust of its Asian neighbours and the international community.”

Abe’s message is expected to frustrate attempts to arrange a bilateral meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Apec summit in Beijing in November.

Abe has not met Xi or his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, since becoming prime minister more than 18 months ago.

The little-known ceremony at Koyasan temple in Wakayama, western Japan, is held every year before a monument to 1,180 war criminals, including Japan’s wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo, one of 13 leaders sentenced to death as class A war criminals. The monument described the war crimes trial as “a harsh and retaliatory trial never before seen in the world”.

Abe, who did not attend the ceremony, wrote: “I humbly express my deepest sympathy for the martyrs who sacrificed their souls to become the foundation of peace and prosperity in Japan today.

“I hope for eternal peace and pledge to work toward a harmonious coexistence of mankind in the future.”

Many in China and South Korea will interpret the gesture as further evidence of Japan’s lack of remorse over its wartime conduct on the Asian mainland. Abe provoked anger in China and South Korea in December 2013 when he visited the Yasukuni shrine, which honours almost 2.5 million Japanese who died in conflicts since the second half of the 19th century.

Abe and other conservative politicians have questioned the convictions for crimes against humanity of Japan’s former leaders by the international military tribunal for the far east. He has said that those convicted during the US-led allied occupation are not considered war criminals under domestic law.

Kazuaki Naka, who organised the service at Koyasan temple, said more than 200 people had gathered at the cenotaph “to console the souls of war dead, who sacrificed their lives for their home country, whether their executions were fair or unfair”.

The chief cabinet spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said Abe had sent the message in his capacity as head of the Liberal Democratic party and not as prime minister. “As such, the government thinks of [Abe] in this respect as a private citizen,” Suga said, adding that Japan had accepted the judgement of the military tribunals when it signed the San Francisco peace treaty in 1951.

Publié dans Articles de Presse

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