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“Japan Prime Minister’s shrine visit can’t be linked to Nazi-like worship” By Ambassador Yutaka Yoshizawa

Contributed to The New Age on 10 January 2014

February 6, 2014

Regarding the Chinese Ambassador’s recent article dated 6 January 2014 entitled ‘Worshiping Nazis of the East’, I must first point out that it is profoundly insulting to associate Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine with the act of worshipping the Nazis.

In the Yasukuni Shrine, approximately 2.5 million souls of those who made ultimate sacrifices for their nation since 1853 are enshrined regardless of their gender or rank, including during national crisis of the Meiji-era, the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars in the 19th Century, as well as World War I and II.

The Chinese Ambassador’s allegations completely differ from the intentions of Prime Minister Abe, which are extensively elaborated in his statement entitled ‘Pledge for everlasting peace’ dated 26 December 2013, the day he visited the Yasukuni Shrine.

In his statement, the Prime Minister said ‘Some people criticize the visit to Yasukuni as paying homage to war criminals, but the purpose of my visit today…is to renew the pledge that Japan must never wage a war again.’ He also stated ‘It is not my intention to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people. It is my wish to respect each other’s character, protect freedom and democracy, and build friendship with China and Korea with respect.’

Ambassador Tian also asserts that Japan still fails to recognize and treat its past aggression. The fact, however, is that Japan has been squarely facing the past. Successive Japanese Governments have expressed feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology on a number of occasions. This position is firmly maintained by Prime Minister Abe.

For over 68 years since the end of World War II, Japan, as a free and democratic country which respects human rights, has been working relentlessly for world peace as well as supporting the welfare and development of other countries including those in the African continent. Such efforts should be duly appreciated in judging what kind of country Japan really is. Interestingly, in the Japan-China Joint Statement of 2008, China’s leader has also expressed its positive evaluation of Japan’s post-war contribution to the peace and stability of the world.

One may point to the instance of post war Germany, but it needs to be recognized that the post war situation in Europe differed from that of East Asia. Also, the reconciliation of the countries in Europe was achieved through efforts on both sides. I will not speak for other countries, but I am proud to say that Japan has made its utmost efforts in post war years and has become the country that I have above elaborated.

On the other hand, China has increasingly been showing an aggressive stance towards its neighbouring countries such as the recent unilateral claiming of its Air Defence Identification Zone. Even though the Japanese Government has been calling for dialogue with China at the highest level in order to frankly discuss above-mentioned and other matters, so far the Chinese side seems to be reluctant.

I sincerely hope that China will recall its above-mentioned positive evaluation of Japan’s post war contribution and join Japan and others in promoting the peace and prosperity of the Asian Pacific region and the rest of the world.

Yours sincerely,
Yutaka Yoshizawa
Ambassador of Japan to South Africa