BEIJING – China has criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on World War II as “evasive.”
“The wars of aggression launched by Japanese militarism inflicted untold sufferings on the people of China and other victim countries in Asia,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement on Saturday, adding that facing up to that part of history is important for keeping in mind the lessons of the past and upholding justice.
“Japan should have made an explicit statement on the nature of the war of militarism and aggression and its responsibility on the wars, made a sincere apology to the people of victim countries, and made a clean break with the past of militarist aggression, rather than being evasive on this major issue of principle,” she said.
Abe reaffirmed past Japanese apologies in his official statement late Friday on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, but refrained from making his own apology.
Japan invaded and occupied much of China years before its entry, as an Axis power allied with Nazi Germany, into World War II.
China’s official media moderately criticized Abe’s statement.
Among other points, official broadcaster CCTV and Xinhua News Agency both interpreted Abe’s remarks as refraining from offering his own apology for Japan’s wartime actions.
They pointed out that Abe’s statement relied heavily on his reference to the Japanese government’s previous apologies — although it contained all the words Beijing wanted him to stick to such as “heartfelt apology” and “aggression.”
They also quoted Abe as saying that Japan’s future generations, who bear no responsibility for the war, must not be predestined to apologize for the country’s role in the conflict.
But otherwise the media coverage was limited as of Friday night. The state broadcaster touched on the statement almost at the end of its prime-time news program.
One exception may be a Xinhua commentary written in English, which bitterly denounced Abe’s statement as being “rife with rhetorical twists” and asserted that it is a “retrogression” from a 1995 landmark statement by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th anniversary of the war’s end.
“The adulterated apology is far from being enough for Japan’s neighbors and the broader international community to lower their guard,” it said.
Nonetheless, whether the commentary represents the Chinese government’s general views is questionable.
For many years, Japan’s relations with China have been problematic due to a territorial dispute, regional rivalry and Beijing’s discontent with Tokyo’s way of dealing with its history of aggression.
Abe’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last November helped to ease some of the recent tensions.
However, China had suggested even since then that whether its relations with Japan would further improve entirely hinges on the Abe statement’s substance.
China, along with South Korea, where painful memories of Japan’s actions before and during World War II persist, had called on Abe to offer a “heartfelt apology” as was done by his predecessors for the tremendous suffering Tokyo caused by its past militarism.
Seeing Abe as a hawk with revisionist views of Japan’s wartime behavior, China and South Korea were apprehensive that he could dilute previous apologies, especially key expressions of contrition found in the 1995 statement.