China urges Japan to break from aggressive past after Shinzo Abe honours war criminals

Japan government must 'win trust of Asian neighbours', says China's foreign ministry after Prime Minister sends condolence message to 'Showa Martyrs', including wartime leaders

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 11:38am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 1:44pm

China has called on Japan to break from its aggressive past and win the trust of its Asian neighbours, the day after news that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had honoured Japanese war criminals from the second world war as “martyrs”.

Abe sent a message in April to a Buddhist temple in western Japan that houses a monument to more than 1,000 “Showa Martyrs”, including convicted wartime leaders who were executed or died in prison, an official of a group sponsoring the event said on Wednesday.

The term “Showa” refers to the late Emperor Hirohito, in whose name Japanese soldiers fought the second world war.

News of Abe’s condolence message is expected to further strain ties with China over Japan’s war record.

“The Japanese government needs to sincerely reflect on its history of aggression and make a clean break with militarism, that provides an important foundation for Japan to rebuild and develop relations with its Asian neighbours after the war,” said Qin Gang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, in a statement posted on the ministry’s website today.

“We urge Japan to abide to their commitment to post-war non-aggression and take practical action to win the trust of their Asian neighbours and the international community.”

Japan’s wartime leaders are enshrined along with war dead at the more widely known Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Visits to this shrine by Japanese leaders typically outrage China, where memories of Japan’s past militarism run deep.

Abe surged back to power in December 2012 pledging to revive the economy, but remains committed to a conservative agenda that includes recasting Japan’s wartime past with a less apologetic tone and easing the limits of its pacifist constitution.

Ties between Japan and China, Asia’s two biggest economies, has been frayed by rows over the legacy of Japan’s wartime militarism, a territorial feud over a group of tiny islands in the East China Sea – known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China – and mutual distrust over defence policies.