Ambasciata del Giappone in Italia
A Contribution Letter by Ambassador Kohno for Times of Malta
Considering that the article posted by the Chinese Ambassador in Malta on "The Times of Malta" on 8th January 2014, concerning the visit by the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe to Yasukuni Shrine, contained groundless contents, which can be considered a slander against Japanese Government and Japanese citizens, in order to promote a fair understanding of Japan in Malta, our Embassy requested the abovementioned newspaper to kindly post, in reply, the following article, published on 17th January. Following the complete text of the article.
Times of Malta
The article posted by the Chinese Ambassador on 8 January consists of an extremely biased and distorted representation about the visit to Yasukuni Shrine by the Japanese Prime Minister Mr Shinzo Abe. While I am convinced that such groundless propaganda and slander against an elected leader of a free society is not at all convincing for the people of Malta, I wish to briefly outline some facts that should contribute to deeper understanding of and fair evaluation by the readers about recent tensions in East Asia.
In Yasukuni Shrine, approximately 2.5 million souls of those who made ultimate sacrifices for their nation since 1853 until WWII are enshrined regardless of their gender or rank. Upon his recent visit there, Prime Minister Abe issued a statement entitled “Pledge for everlasting peace”. He said his visit was made to pay his respects and pray for the souls of the war dead and to renew the pledge that Japan shall never again wage war. It was by no means to pay homage to war criminals or to praise militarism. As Prime Minister Abe also stated, Japan has created a free and democratic country and consistently walked the path of peace for the past 68 years. Fundamental values of liberal democracy are deeply ingrained in the nation, and there is no doubt whatsoever that Japan will continue to pursue this path. Even China expressed its positive evaluation of Japan’s post-war record as nation of peace in an official statement in 2008, after more than 60 visits to Yasukuni had been made by Japanese prime ministers since the end of WWII, with almost half taking place after it was made public in 1979 that 14 Class A war criminals had been enshrined there in 1978. China began raising this issue from 1985, by which time 21 of these visits had gone unchallenged. Has Japan suddenly turned militaristic within five years? Certainly not. Furthermore, the Government of Japan has consistently made clear that it squarely faces history, and expresses deep remorse and heartfelt apology. This stance is firmly upheld under the Abe Government.
The ambassador also refers to how Germany acted, 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 am proud to say that Japan has played its part by making its utmost efforts in post-war years.
It is ironic that a country that has developed strategic nuclear weapons and increased its own annual military spending by double digits for the past 20 years should call its neighbour “militarist”. China’s military budget is now the second largest in the world, more than twice that of Japan. Its attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion, instead of abiding by the rule of law, has raised grave concerns throughout the region. Chinese government vessels repeatedly intrude into Japanese territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, which have been peacefully under Japan's sovereignty for 120 years. China started to raise its territorial claims only in 1971 after a scientific research had indicated a possibility of oil reserve nearby. A Chinese destroyer even directed its fire-control radar at a Japanese vessel last year, which in normal naval practice might be regarded as an act of war. China’s recent unilateral declaration of an air defence identification zone covering the islands is further escalating the tensions. Even faced by these dangerous provocations, Japan has been exercising utmost restraint.
China may well have different views. This is why the two countries should meet and seek mutual understanding. Although Prime Minister Abe stated that he strongly wishes to explain his thoughts directly to the Chinese leaders, China has so far refused the offer. I sincerely hope that China will come forward, rather than keep invoking the ghost of “militarism” of seven decades ago, which no longer exists.
Ambassador of Japan to Malta