Yasukuni Shrine

Abe's Yasukuni visit remembers pain of war and affirms Japan's remorse

Hitoshi Noda says Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to remember the war dead did not include honouring war criminals. Instead, it affirms Japan's remorse and wish for peace

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 3:31am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 9:28am

I have carefully read the contribution by Song Zhe, the commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in Hong Kong, concerning Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine. As a diplomat stationed in Hong Kong, I have no intention to start a war of words here. However, I have to offer the Hong Kong people some clarification on the visit and further details because Mr Song's arguments are unfounded and misleading. As a courtesy to the hosting country, and for the sake of the space available, I will confine myself to Prime Minister Abe's intention and the relevant facts.

The prime minister has expressed profound remorse for history and made "a pledge never to wage a war again". That is what he wanted to express more than anything else in his visit to the Yasukuni shrine. While paying sincere condolences and respect to the souls of all those who have perished in wars, to the international community he reconfirmed in the sincerest manner the conviction for everlasting peace, based on his deepest remorse for the past - as expressed in the statement he issued after the visit. There is nothing else to his visit. In other words, he squarely faces the historical fact that Japan caused tremendous damage and sufferings to many countries and sincerely expresses the country's deep remorse and heartfelt apology for this past. No other positions and views are taken. This position, which has been shared by previous Japanese governments, is firmly upheld by Prime Minister Abe as well.

An important part of this feeling derives from the damage and sufferings caused to Hong Kong and its people during the war. Also, Prime Minister Abe has stated at Diet hearings that he accepts the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Paying honour to or justifying the Class-A war criminals was not part of his visit. If you look at Japan's course of progress throughout the 68 years of the post-war period, its sincerest remorse for its past, the country's conviction of never waging a war and its contribution to peace could never be doubted.

Japan has been one of the strongest and most consistent defenders of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and has been making its utmost contribution to peace and prosperity not only in the Asian region but also in the whole world. There is no room for "militarism" to exist. I am confident that this is something commonly acknowledged by the international society. This course of progress of Japan as a peace-loving nation will not change hereafter. Ideas and values such as peace, democracy and human rights have already been ingrained in the bodies and souls of the Japanese, transcending generations. I assume that many people of Hong Kong personally share this understanding of the Japanese, as so many Hong Kong people visit Japan and have seen for themselves what kind of a country it really is.

The relationship with China is one of the most important for Japan. As neighbouring countries, it is inevitable to have difficulties between each other from time to time. In no way would I try to deny that there exist issues and challenges between Japan and China today. That is exactly why dialogue between the two countries and their leaders is necessary. As the prime minister himself emphasises repeatedly, the door for dialogue is always open on the Japanese side. And I sincerely hope China will come forward.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the government and the citizens of Hong Kong for their deep friendship and hospitality towards the Japanese community here.

Hitoshi Noda is consul general of Japan in Hong Kong