Gao Yanping, Chinese Ambassador to the State of Israel
February 14, 2014, Haaretz (Hebron Version), one of Israel's oldest newspapers
Not long ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in disregard of the strong opposition of China and other Asian countries, blatantly paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine where 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II are honored. His act receives strong opposition and condemnation from all over the world including China. The Chinese Government expresses its strong indignation over the behavior of the Japanese leader which grossly tramples on the sentiment of the Chinese people and other Asian peoples victimized in the war and openly challenges the historical justice and human conscience, and lodges a strong protest and severe condemnation against the Japanese side. As Chinese Ambassador to Israel, I would like to brief my Israeli friends on some facts about World War II.
1. Japan's War Crimes
In September 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy, establishing the Axis Powers of World War II. With the expansion of Japanese militaristic ambition, Japan attacked U.S. Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, World War II then was divided into two major battlefields, one in Europe and the other in the Pacific.
In Europe, Nazi Germany persecuted Jews in a crazy manner, which caused holocaust of 6 million Jews. The Chinese people empathized with the suffering and misery of the Jewish people, due to our experience with the Japanese militarism. Many countries in Asia, such as China, North Korea, South Korea, Burma, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia were all once invaded or occupied by Japan. China suffered most from Japanese invasion. Japan started to encroach on the northeast provinces of China in 1931, and started the full-scale aggressive war against China in July 1937, which caused as many as 35 million casualties. After the December 1937 occupation of Nanjing, China's capital at the time, the Japanese invaders massacred 300,000 innocent civilians and POWs, an event which became known to the world as the Nanjing Massacre.
2. The Outcome of World War II and the Historic Trials
After long and bloody counterattack of the World Anti-Fascist Alliance, they won a great victory in the International Anti-Fascist War. On December 1, 1943, state leaders of China, the United States and the United Kingdom met in Cairo and issued the Cairo Declaration, which agreed to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan and post-war solutions to Japan, demanded that Japan should be stripped of all the territories which it had seized or occupied from China. Japanese militarism also declared unconditional surrender on the subsequent August 15, 1945, and signed on September 2 the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which explicitly accepted Potsdam Declaration and promised to implement the terms of the Declaration.
After World War II, the international community established the International Military Tribunal in Europe and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which held historic trials against German Nazis and Japanese militarists. The famous Nuremberg Trials in Europe brought 22 Class-A war criminals such as Hermann Wilhelm Goring from Germany to trial, and sent 10 of them to the gallows. The famous Tokyo Trials in Asia involved 28 Japanese Class-A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, and sent seven of them to the gallows. The two Tribunals made the above solemn verdicts according to international law. Germany and Japan should take the responsibilities to recognize, respect and safeguard the verdicts.
3. The Nature of Yasukuni Shrine
Originally founded in 1869 with the name of Tokyo Shokonsha, Yasukuni Shrine gained its present name in 1879. It was built to worship those who had died in services of the Empire of Japan since the Meiji Restoration; most of them died in Japan's past invasion wars. In the shrine there is the Yushukan, a war museum putting on exhibition various kinds of apparatus for killing equipped in the Japanese army and weaponry used during World War II; The Yushunkan tries its utmost to beautify the Japanese invasion history, distorts the facts of its aggression war towards China and whitewashes the Nanjing Massacre. Photos of 14 Class-A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, are hung at the walls in the exhibit hall, to receive worships from the public.
The Yasukuni Shrine is a spiritual pillar and symbol of Japanese militarism in its war of aggression and Japan's colonization. The Yasukuni Shrine issue, in essence, boils down to whether or not the Japanese government is able to correctly view and deeply reflect on its past of militarist aggression and colonial rule. No matter when it is, paying homage to Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese Prime Minister would be a brazen affront and insult to Asian peoples who once suffered from Japanese militarist aggression and colonization.
4. Historical Issues between China and Japan
Despite the fact that the war of aggression against China waged by Japanese militarism brought untold calamities to the Chinese people, China has never abandoned its good will to develop normal ties of good-neighborliness and friendship with Japan. When China and Japan normalized their diplomatic ties in 1972, the Chinese leadership made the important decision not to seek war reparations from Japan. This is because we believe that the crimes and responsibilities of the war of aggression against China should be borne by the small number of militarists. The Japanese people are also victims of the war. However, Abe has refused to assume historical responsibilities or own up to Japan's past crimes. Instead, he had gone so far as to worship Class-A war criminals. This has severely damaged and overturned the political foundation of China-Japan relations.
China only requests Japan to make sincere apologies and put apologies into actions. If saying one thing and meaning another, talking insincerely, or going back on its apologies repeatedly, no matter how many time Japan makes apologies, it would be difficult to win trust from its neighboring countries. Japan should earnestly respect the feelings of Asian peoples, stop hurting their sentiments, and do more things favorable for peace and stability in Asia, rather than the other way around.
5. Dangers of Japan's Wrong Doings
I was told by some Israeli friends that, when Nazi Germany planned the holocaust, some far-sighted people in the international community noticed this dangerous trend at once and warned the world powers, but little attention was paid and almost no actions taken. Therefore, when we saw the Japanese prime minister blatantly pay homage to the shrine where Class-A war criminals are worshiped, we felt the strong desire for peace from all those innocent lives lost in the holocaust. We cannot allow the future to re-testify to the perilous results of our indifference and apathy.
Both the Jewish and Chinese people underwent that period of extreme hardship, and have natural hatred toward Nazism and Fascism. Both Jerusalem and Nanjing have their own museums, such as Yad Vashem and the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre.
After World War II, Germans profoundly repented its past of aggression and made sincere apologies to the Jewish people and Israel, which had finally won the forgiveness and respect of all countries including Israel. However, Japan denies the historic just trial of Japanese militarism for many times, openly questions the justification of Tokyo Trials, and repeatedly challenges the victorious outcome of World War II and the post-war international order. Abe's action reflects the view of history of some Japanese right-wing politicians, damages the foundation of mutual trust between China and Japan, and also hurts the sentiments of not only Chinese people, but also other peoples and countries in Asia; it casts shadows over peace and stability in Asia. His action is not only confined to the realm of Sino-Japanese relations; it also gives rise to widespread worries and skepticism from the international community.
The remembrance of the past is the teacher of the future. Last May, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang toured the site of the Potsdam Conference, Germany and pointed out that only by facing history squarely can one embrace the future. Only by facing history squarely and taking history as a mirror, can Japan have a bright future with its Asian neighbors, which suits for the long-term interests of Japan and the basic needs of Japanese people!