WASHINGTON – A former Japanese defense minister on Wednesday warned China against attempting to rewrite history, in reference to promotional materials for a newly released Chinese film about World War II. The posters have drawn scorn even within China for gross inaccuracy.
Speaking at a think tank event in Washington, Itsunori Onodera also urged Beijing to comply with international law in connection with its activities in the South China Sea, where China is involved in territorial rows with neighbors.
“We must not change the history of the past,” Onodera said, referring to posters for the film “Cairo Declaration,” which was produced by a company under the People’s Liberation Army.
The posters have come under fire for focusing on Mao Zedong, the leader of Communist forces at the time, who did not in fact attend the Cairo meeting, a 1943 trilateral gathering to outline the Allied position toward Japan and make decisions about postwar Asia.
Chiang Kai-shek of the Nationalist Party represented China at the Cairo Conference, which involved Britain, China and the United States.
Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He appears in the film, but is not shown attending the conference. The film debuted Sept. 3.
While Onodera blasted the posters as “a fabrication,” they also drew criticism online in China, where critics called them a bid by Chinese authorities to play up the role of the Communist Party in the victory over Japan in the war.
Onodera, a veteran lawmaker from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was speaking at the Stimson Center. He also accused China of trying to influence the way history was presented in the United States.
“I heard the Chinese Foreign Ministry has been involved in diplomatic activities aimed at changing historical exhibits in museums in the United States,” he said.
Turning to China’s actions in the South China Sea, Onodera said China’s behavior could constitute attempts to “change the status quo by force.”
He was referring to Beijing’s massive land reclamation work in a disputed area of the South China Sea and its construction of military and other facilities despite objections by other claimants to the territory.
“I don’t want China to take a path like the one followed by (wartime) Japan. As I want China to behave as a major country, I believe it is important for the international community to clearly express opinions,” Onodera said, in reference to Japan’s wartime aggression.