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Opening Statement on Abe's Visit to Yasukuni Shrine
2014/01/17
 

Correspondents from the Media,

Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to this press brief.

Today,I am again inside this magnificent building, a gift from the Chinese Government and people to the people of Africa. Inside the main conference hall, many VIP speakers have stood on the podium and spoken about friendship, cooperation and development issues. Yesterday, it was for a very different political figure, the Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe, who 3 weeks ago visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan,where class-A war criminals are inshrined. This brazen affront on people of all countries that once suffered from Japanese militarist aggression and blatant disregard of human conscience have aroused denunciations from the peoples of China and other Asian nations, and met with strong opposition from other parts of the world. As China's diplomatic envoy to Ethiopia and the African Union, I feel duty bound to say something about what Japan did to the people of China during the war of aggression, what kind of politician Mr. Abe is and where he is trying to lead his country.

First, the heinous war crimes by the Japanese aggressors

Japanese invasion in China started in 1931 and escalated into a full-scale war when the Japanese Army bombarded the city of Wanping near Beijing on July 7, 1937. During the 8 years of war of against China, the Japanese aggressors inflicted the most savage atrocities on the Chinese people. About 35 million Chinese were either killed or wounded, with a total property loss of 600 billion US dollars. The most notorious of those atrocities took place in Nanjing--the then capital of China--in December 1937, when the Japanese Imperial Army proceeded to slaughter 300, 000 of the city's 600, 000 residents over a six-week period. The majority of the victims were civilians and before they were murdered, most of the women and girls--some as young as 8 years of age and others as old as 70--were gang raped. Pregnant women weren't spared either, with some of them having their stomachs cut open and their fetuses ripped out. Is it any wonder that the Rape of Nanjing continues to exert such strong emotions in China to this day?

In addition to the brutal killings, wartime documents have revealed evidence of biological warfare by the Japanese army in China during World War II. Documents have found that once the Japanese troops occupied a region, they would send a bacteria army there. The Japanese"bacteria forces", including Unit 731, started biological warfare in more than 20 provinces and cities of China on 161 occasions, claiming more than 270, 000 lives and causing more than 2. 37 million people infected by different plagues.

Secondly, the Yakuni Shrine and the Yushukan Museum

The Yasukuni Shrine was once a spiritual tool and symbol of Japanese militarism in its war of aggression. Until this day, exhibits in the Shrine are still designed to justify Japan's decision to launch that war of aggression. What's more, in total disregard of the opposition of people all over the world, 14 Class-A war criminals who committed heinous crimes remain honored there. These were the criminals who planned, launched and implemented the war of aggression. Their names are as notorious as their crimes: Hideki Tojo and Kenji Doihara, arch-criminals in the war of aggression against China; Matsui Iwane, held directly responsible for the Nanjing Massacre in 1937; Heitaro Kimura, butcher of Burma; and Akira Muto, one of the Manila Massacre culprits, to name just a few. They were Asia's Nazis. Rightly so, they were convicted by the International Military Tribunal of the Far East.

The Yushukan Museum attached to the Shrine either avoids questioning Japan's war responsibility or actually glorifies war and militarism by deliberately covering up truths and denying the trials by the IMTFE. It whitewashes Japan's military atrocities, portraying the so-called"Great East Asian War"as the"liberation"of Asia from"White"colonial powers.

Thirdly, Abe's attitude towards history of Japanese militarism

Mr. Abe has been consistent with his calculated right-wing politics. 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. Abe has argued that the view of the war was not formed by the Japanese themselves but, rather, by the victorious Allies, and it is by their judgment only that the Japanese were condemned. "Aggression, " he said, was a term that had not yet been defined academically and internationally.

In May 2013, Mr Abe caused great offence in China and Korea when he was photographed in a military jet boldly marked with the number 731, the code of the above-mentioned notorious Japanese biological warfare unit.

He has already boosted defence spending and begun to revise national military strategy. He has even gone so far as to claim that his lifelong goal is to reinterpret and ultimately revise Japan's 1947 pacifist Constitution. Proposed changes include allowing the country to officially maintain a standing army. 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.

On August 15, 2013, Abe exploited the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II to make even more explicit his restoration of Japanese militarism. For the first time in nearly two decades, he deliberately omitted the pledge made by every prime minister that Japan would never again go to war. Although Abe did not visit the Shrine on that occasion, he offered an"apology"to the war dead for his personal absence, telling reporters that he had conveyed through his aide to the war dead "a feeling of gratitude and respect for those who fought and gave their precious lives for their country. "

The omission was not accidental. Last April, Abe declared that he was not bound by Murayama's 1995 statement, the only cabinet-approved apology by Japan. That statement by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama acknowledged that Japan had waged wars of aggression and that Japan caused "tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations" during its colonial rule of specific countries. Murayama also expressed the country's" deep remorse" and "heartfelt apology" to the victims.

While doing all of these thing, Abe has engaged in a mudslinging campaign against China. Since taking office in 2012, Abe has visited more than 20 countries, including the US, France and all 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He has not missed any opportunity during these visits to advance ostensibly China-containment policies. He 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.

Fourth, Differences Between Germany and Japan

Over many decades after the second world war, Germany spared no efforts in atoning for its war crimes, through repeated public remembrances, reparations and education of its young about German atrocities.

In the mid-1960s, exhibitions at Neuengamme, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau showed "how the 'murderous system' of mass killing developed". In 1965, a large plaque naming concentration camps was installed in West Berlin. In 1970, chancellor Willy Brandt fell to his knees before the Warsaw Ghetto memorial. In 1977, chancellor Helmut Schmidt visited Auschwitz and made a contrite speech, followed by Helmut Kohl in November 1989. Absent real German atonement, the peace-promoting European Union project would not have come about.

In contrast, Japan has fallen far short in facing history. So far, it has not accepted any blame for forcing women into sexual slavery during the war. Instead of educating its young on the nation's mistakes, Japan chose to doctor its history textbooks.

Successive Japanese prime ministers have continued to pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine. Despite Japan's efforts to portray these visits as a normal nation's respect for its war dead, think how provocative it would be to the world if Germany were to pay homage to a shrine honoring, say, Hitler.

In closing, I would like to say this: the issue of Yasukuni Shrine, in essence, boils down to whether or not the Japanese government is able to correctly look at and profoundly repent its past of militarist aggression and colonial rule. Abe is the Prime Minister of Japan. His visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is by no means a domestic affair of Japan, still less an act by an individual. Instead, it is a major issue of right and wrong that concerns aggression versus anti-aggression, justice versus evil, and light versus darkness. It is a fundamental issue of direction about whether Japan's leader will adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and stay with the path of peaceful development. And it is a matter of major principle that bears on the political foundation of Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors and the international community. What Abe has done is pushing Japan toward a dangerous road that undermines the fundamental interests of people of all countries and of Japan. This has already given rise to high vigilance of the international community and of people with vision in Japan in various sectors.

43 years ago, Chancellor Brandt knelt down in Warsaw to enable Germany to stand up as a normal and responsible country in Europe and the wider world. If Abe persists in denying the war-waging history, Japan will continue to kneel down under the weight of history.

Thank you for your attention.

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