Irritation continues between China and Japan and there is a multi-billion question of ending it once and for all. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual donation to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on 15 August as Japan marked the anniversary of its surrender in World War II, but he is unlikely to visit the site, considering relations with China and other countries might worsen.
The Shinto shrine, seen by neighbouring countries as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, has been a source of diplomatic friction with them as it honours convicted war criminals along with the war dead. In light of improving relations with those neighbours, particularly China, Abe and his Cabinet Ministers are likely to refrain from visiting the shrine on the anniversary. Abe visited Yasukuni in December 2013 after taking office the previous year, drawing protests from Asian neighbours.
The recent token of Abe is just seen as token of friendship with Yasukuni Shrine, while damaging Japanese ties with Asian countries such as China, the two Koreas and the Philippines etc. Dozens of Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine along with scores of ordinary Japanese. These countries called on Japan to face war time crimes in sending donation to the Yasukuni Shrine. Past visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged Beijing and Seoul and other countries as well.
Japan has occupied China and Korea during 1910-1945 and carried out its brutal rule. Previous trips have prompted a sharp rejoinder from China and a reminder from Tokyo’s close ally Washington of the importance of reconciliation over the past.
Japanese Emperor Akihito, 83, made the same traditional Japanese plea; that of deep-remorse and hoping the tragedy of war may not be repeated by any one. This apology is considered to be an important feature of Japan foreign policy but at the same time Yasukuni Shrine attribution should be avoided. The Budokan Hall in Tokyo shall be considered as the true representative of Japans’ war crimes and the Yasukuni Shrine’s attribution should be considered as symbol of hate against the humanity.
The Japanese rule in China and Korea has never been appreciated from any point of view. “We express our deep concerns that responsible leaders of Japan’s Government and Parliament are again paying tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine and visiting the shrine that glorifies the history of the war of aggression,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China resolutely opposed Japan’s “wrong actions” over the shrine. “China urges Japan to earnestly face up to and deeply reflect upon its history of militarism,” she told a daily news briefing. Abe visited Yasukuni in 2013, an action that prompted criticism from key ally the United States as well as from Asian nations, but has since only sent offerings on August 15 and during Yasukuni’s twice yearly festivals.
This kind of act could only increase tension between Japan and many of its neighbours and it could affect many types of efforts to improve ties between Japan and its neighbours. This looks to be an important dimension of oneness between China and the Koreas who firmly united against such a move for long time since 1945. In fact, many countries and people are united against Japanese act of aggression and inhumanity. Maintaining harmony between Japan and the rest of Asia is important to improve mutual ties between them.
The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.