Japan should reflect on historical mistakes: Fukuda

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2007, 12:00am

We have to face the past with courage, says visiting PM

Japan should reflect on its mistakes and face the past with courage and wisdom, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said yesterday in a conciliatory gesture rarely made by his predecessors.

Speaking to a packed hall of students, teachers and government officials at Peking University, Mr Fukuda said Japan had the responsibility and obligation to face up to historical mistakes. '[We] should reflect on our mistakes, and be humble and sympathetic to the victims. Only when [we] can treat our past seriously, bravely and wisely make self-examinations in areas that should be examined, can we prevent making the same mistakes,' he said.

Quoting Premier Wen Jiabao's speech to the Japanese parliament in April, the first by a Chinese leader in 22 years, Mr Fukuda said: 'Emphasis should be laid on learning a lesson from history, paving the way for a better future but not to pass on hatred.'

'I accept this remark in all earnestness,' Mr Fukuda said before receiving a standing ovation.

The address lent heavily on his vision of further improving the bilateral relationship, saying the neighbours should be engaged in the region and the world's development and stability.

'The future of China and Japan is not to choose between co-operation and confrontation, but to search for effective and responsible means to establish co-operation,' he said.

However, he noted that distrust still lingered.

'Because mutual understanding and trust are not deep enough, many people in Japan and China will still wonder why people from the other side do not understand their feelings,' he said.

'Japan has not prepared for how to deal with a China that has achieved so much in such a short space of time.

'And, for China, it has a complicated attitude towards a Japan that has greater international political power.'

To allow students to deepen their knowledge of each country, Mr Fukuda rolled out his 'Peking University Fukuda proposal' in which academics would be invited to attend seminars in Japan while 100 of its students would study in Japan next year.

Peking University international relations student Jeremy Cao said there were few new ideas in Mr Fukuda's speech.

'The trip is just a routine political show even though China has given a real high level official welcome. The major problems between China and Japan are the historic issues and Japan's military ambitions as well as Japan-US relations,' he said.

'But, not a word about these issues was mentioned.' But Jason Zhang from the university's foreign languages department said the address marked a turning point from the 'cold politics, warm economics' policy of former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Junichiro Koizumi.

'The Chinese always wish to make friends with the Japanese, but the first thing is to face the truth in the history. Fukuda's speech shows a possible basis for friendship. It will help the two peoples start a healthy relationship.'

Additional reporting by Jay Xie