BEIJING – China on Friday used the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day, as an opportunity to lecture Japan on the importance of learning from history and accepting responsibility for its role in World War II.
Germany’s “sincere repentance” for its role in the war stands in stark contrast to Japan, which “is still trying to reverse the verdict of history, turning back the will of history, challenging the victory of the Second World War and the postwar international order,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a daily press briefing.
“We urge the Japanese leaders once again to face up to and reflect upon its history of aggression, to correct its mistakes with concrete actions and win back the trust from its Asian neighbors and the international community,” Hong said.
The comments came in response to a question from the state-run Xinhua News Agency. China Central Television included the remarks in its afternoon broadcast along with segments discussing the history of the Normandy invasion.
Beijing has previously contrasted Germany and Japan’s respective attitudes toward their responsibility for the war as a means of scolding Tokyo for failing to face up to its role in the conflict.
On a trip to Germany in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly requested that German Chancellor Angel Merkel accompany him on an official visit to Berlin’s Holocaust memorial, but Merkel declined, fearing that Xi intended to politicize the visit by using it to criticize Japan.
Germany’s envoy to China, Michael Klauss, subsequently blasted China for the ploy, telling the South China Morning Post that Germany “does not want to see our approach to history exploited to stir up tensions between Tokyo and Beijing. That is a different matter.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has drawn criticism from around the world for his visit last December to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan’s war dead, including several Class-A war criminals. The visit has dragged relations with China and South Korea to new lows.
Members of his administration have also attracted heavy criticism for their remarks downplaying the Imperial Japanese military’s role in forcing women from across Asia and Europe into service as sex slaves for soldiers. Japan euphemistically refers to the girls and women as the “ianfu,” or “comfort women.”
China has a checkered record in dealing with its own history, as evidenced by efforts this week to squelch attempts to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when Chinese soldiers killed hundreds, if not thousands, of peaceful pro-democracy protesters.