BEIJING – China’s foreign minister said Saturday that Japan’s acceptance of its neighbor’s rise and sincere attitude toward wartime history issues are a must for bilateral relations to further improve.
“The question boils down to one thing, that is, whether Japan will accept and welcome the renewed development and the re-emergence of China,” Wang Yi told a political forum in Beijing.
“China’s development has produced massive benefits for Japan. However, from the perspective of mentality, I don’t think Japanese people are fully prepared for this,” Wang said. “I believe this is the root cause of many of the issues between China and Japan right now.”
Wang also said it is necessary for Japan’s top political leader to have “correct” views on Japan’s past militarism.
The diplomat made the remarks when asked what kind of plans he has to help consolidate the positive momentum gained recently by Tokyo and Beijing toward a thaw in relations, which were badly damaged by territorial issues and conflicting views on history.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have had two face-to-face meetings in five months, most recently in April.
Late last month, Xi showed up unannounced at an event promoting closer bilateral relations in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, telling more than 3,000 Japanese, including lawmakers from Tokyo, that people-to-people exchanges are vital to building mutual trust.
Despite the increase in high-level contacts, political relations between the countries remain delicate as they mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this summer.
For the first time, China will stage a military parade on Sept. 3 in Tiananmen Square to mark the anniversary in Xi’s presence. The date is regarded as victory day over what Beijing calls the war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
At the World Peace Forum, organized by China’s prominent Tsinghua University, Wang suggested that the international community is paying close attention to Abe’s remarks and actions this year. He said it is worth watching whether he will “continue to stay in the shadow of history and place himself in the seat of defendant of history or will he be making efforts to achieve a genuine reconciliation” with countries Japan invaded and hurt.
China, as well as South Korea, perceive Japan as not having done enough to atone for atrocities it committed before and during the war. They are concerned that Abe, often viewed as a historical revisionist, will water down Tokyo’s past apologies in a statement he is expected to issue to mark the war anniversary in August.
Japan is often accused by its victims of not being sincere enough when apologizing for its wartime acts, and this has been a constant thorn in regional relations. In fact, one of Japan’s most famous official apologies was issued not by the prime minister, but by his chief Cabinet secretary.
In that light, a Japanese government source said last week that Abe might not seek Cabinet approval for his war anniversary statement, thereby making it less official in nature and easier to incorporate his personal views on the conflict.
Abe, who once threatened to has said he basically inherits the views on wartime history expressed by his predecessors, but he has also said there is not much point in using the same wording in his own statement, which he said should be more “future-oriented.”
Abe is seen as reluctant to use such words and phrases as “apology” and “colonial rule and aggression” in his statement. These were used by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi in their Aug. 15 war anniversary statements in 1995 and 2005. Both statements were approved in advance by the Cabinet.