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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 10:41am

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine, located in Tokyo, Japan, is dedicated to over 2,466,000 Japanese soldiers and servicemen who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan in the last 150 years. It also houses one of the few Japanese war museums dedicated to World War II.The shrine is at the center of an international  controversy by honoring war criminals convicted by a post World War II court including 14 'Class A' war criminals. Japanese politicians, including prime ministers and cabinet members have paid visits to Yasukuni Shrine in recent years which caused criticism and protests from China, Korea, and Taiwan. 

CommentInsight & Opinion

Abe's Yasukuni visit shows Japan has no remorse over wartime aggression

Song Zhe says Japan's relations with China and the rest of Asia cannot start afresh unless and until its leaders show true remorse for - and accurate understanding of - its wartime acts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 11:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 3:30am

Hong Kong, known as the "Pearl of the East", is a world city of prosperity. One could hardly imagine what happened here 70 years ago, when the city was ravaged by war. Hong Kong was under Japanese invasion and occupation for three years and eight months, during Japan's war on the region.

In those years, the suffering caused by Japan's invasion and expansion went far beyond a few cities. In the war against Japanese aggression, tens of millions of people lost their lives in China; the casualties and loss of property were countless. The cruelty of Japanese invaders covered almost the whole of Asia, and the suffering inflicted on the people of victim countries was beyond estimation.

Nearly 70 years have passed since the end of that war. But Asia will not be able to turn this page of history if the aggressor does not have an accurate understanding of this wartime aggression and has no feelings of remorse.

How to understand history is always a major political issue in Japan's relations with China, South Korea and other war victims in Asia.

In Japan, the consensus regarding remorse for past aggressions is not as broad as in Germany. But Japan's leader, as an embodiment of the will of the state, cannot say it is a matter of "internal affairs" and use this as an excuse to explain his behaviour with regard to understanding history. Because of this, the decision whether or not to visit the Yasukuni shrine, where convicted second world war criminals are honoured and worshipped, is not only a sensitive issue in Japan; it is also an issue of major importance watched closely by the people in the victim countries in Asia, and by the international community.

The rolling back of history by Japanese right-wingers offends the whole world’s conscience

One year after Shinzo Abe became prime minister of Japan for the second time, he visited the Yasukuni shrine, with no regard for the strong opposition from the Chinese government, bringing to the fore this major political issue after seven years of rest. Abe claimed afterwards that he made the visit out of remorse for the past and for "continued peace".

Such thinking can never be a justification for the people of the victim countries in Asia and in terms of international justice. This has been proven by the international community's strong reaction to Abe's behaviour.

Yasukuni was seen as a symbol of dedication to the emperor. As such, it played a role in boosting morale for invasion and expansion.

To this day, war criminals are glorified as "heroes" and "martyrs". In the shrine, past invasions are distorted, militarism is beautified and an absurd historical outlook - such as invasion having a higher purpose - is trumpeted.

But justice comes from the human conscience. The international community has long ago drawn its conclusions about the crimes of Japanese militarism and the responsibilities of war criminals. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East handed down just judgments and sentences on 14 Class-A war criminals; they were the leaders who waged war and on their hands was the blood of the people in the victim countries. They were Asia's Nazis. The rolling back of history on this particular issue by Japanese right-wingers offends the whole world's conscience.

Abe should know the sensitive nature of the Yasukuni issue. Still, he took this adventurist step. His actions show he is not sincere in his remorse for this wartime aggression, and he lacks an accurate historical outlook, which is necessary to see sense. His so-called remorse for the past and commitment to relations with China are a disguise. Through his actions, he is in fact questioning the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials. Abe's veneration of Class-A war criminals is a sacrilege to the souls of those who sacrificed their lives in the fight against fascism in Asia and elsewhere.

If we also consider that, in the past year, Abe has been talking much about amending the constitution and about a military build-up, we cannot but feel worried. Where will Abe lead Japan? Can Japan live in peace with its neighbours? Will past tragedies be repeated in Asia?

One should take history as a mirror and look to the future. This is not to continue hatred, but to prevent a repeat of past tragedies. We hope Abe will have a correct understanding of, and deep remorse for, Japan's military aggression and colonial history, change course and win the trust of his Asian neighbours, rather than slipping further down the opposite road.

Today, peace and development are ideals to be found deep in the hearts of the Asian people. Asia on the whole is prosperous and growing. But the attempt of a few people in Japan to roll back the history of aggression is a countercurrent that should not be overlooked, because peace does not come easily.

Song Zhe is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' commissioner in Hong Kong


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There was once a man with the name Willy Brandt. A German Chancellor and head of the the German Government kneeled down 1970 at a polish monument and memorial to the warsaw gettho uprising during the Nazi oppression. Showing remorse and regret. He did something what has helped Germany to bond again with her neighbours and build a foundation of trust for future friendship an cooperation. Japan? well, they still in their opinion that they did nothing wrong. They just eradicate this dark part of their history out of the history.
Shinzo Abe says (lies) about loving peace but visits the Yasukuni War Shrine where the war-criminal monsters are enshrined. When you pray to war-criminals who are mass-****s, war-mongers, profiteers from human suffering what does that says about you. Shinzo Abe, Japanese government ministers, the LDP, Japanese rightists that pray at the Yasukuni War Shrine are basically saying they support the war-criminals and support their policies of mass-murder, war-mongering, barbarities and lack of humanity.
In response to provocations from the Japanese Fascist Government, the victims of Japanese aggression should have a day dedicated to the celebration of the hanging of Japanese war-criminals where they can celebrate the inglorious defeat and unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan. Also they should ban and impose sanctions on any Japanese PM or politicians who prays to war-criminals at the Yasukuni War Shrine.
hard times !
but i wonder why the tribute paid by Japanese premier Abe to the killed (in wars) at Yashkuni Shrine in Tokyo should be linked to relationship between Japan and all those countries which had once been invaded by her in the World War II such as Korea, China,the Philippines,Vietnam,Singapore,Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma/Mynamar,the United States and Australia plus New Guinea and Cambodia, Laos or even India.Anyway, it is the internal affair of Japan/Nippon herself and the shrine is located in her territory that no one can forbid any Japanese ( either the dignitiaries or commoners) from paying respects to the dead's tablets located there !
Wonder? What do you think if Germans pay respect to Hitler, aseserting he was a national hero who had sacrified himself for German in WW II. That’s the Shrine supposed to mean.
The war was 70 years ago! Those people who started/participated in it are all dead. OTOH, The world should insist that China apologize for Genghis Khan's aggression against Asia during the Yuan dynasty.
Not all are dead, and the Japanese haven't learned a little out of it. Who ever is not learning from his past and mistakes will probably do it again sometimes.
ah, yes. A little more education would be not too bad for you. Especially in history.
NO ! Not all dead. My father is still living. He often tells me the brutality of the Japanese soldiers and how they killed relentlessly, forcing him to be a refugee. Although I was born after the war, I have a deprivation childhood thanks to the Japanese Imperial Army. Feel what I feel when I see Abe worshiping these "national heroes"?
History blind? Genghis Khan was not a Chinese. He invaded China and built the Yuan Dynasty.
Abe will be the same abe of the past… recklessly stubborn and the reincarnation of his grandfather. A class A war criminal dat should have face the gallows yet was released for reasons we don't know nor care.
Lets not deceive ourselves. The visit @ ys is deliberate and yet a calculated move and not a visit to pray for peace or to pledge to make no war. It is a statement. A direct challenge to those dat dares to defile his beliefs. Japan is back…so say the slogan.
How xi will deal with abe in the next 4 years will be crucial to us all in this region. How obama decides will be equally important and something we should be concern with.
The smart move for xi is to wait and bid his time to solidify his position back home and strengthen his country economy, enhanced military modernization and secure allies and friends within and abroad especially with Russia albeit difficulties with Philippines and to a lesser degree Vietnam while keeping pressure on the diplomatic front to condemn and shame abe for his wrong and brazen perspective.
Despite the odds, the president of china still retains the best hope to reform china and to pursue peace and stability if he chooses. Xi is relentless, smart, no nonsense type and patiently bidding his time for the right moment. It’s not how you start but how it ends dat matter most.
The longer this game is play out without any bullets flying, abe and his rightwing party will have to back down and concede defeat without a single shot fired.



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