SEOUL/BEIJING – South Korea and China reacted guardedly to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor, with both saying Japan should try harder to reconcile with the countries it victimized before and during World War II.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday that Japan should “make more efforts for reconciliation and cooperation with neighboring countries that were victims of its militarism in the past, on the basis of a correct recognition of history.”
The official avoided directly commenting on Abe’s speech at Pearl Harbor, other than to note that he vowed that Japan would never again wage war and spoke of Japan as a peace-loving nation.
In his speech Tuesday following talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Hawaii, Abe offered condolences to the souls of those who died in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and in subsequent fighting, and said that Japan and the United States are now “appealing to the world about the importance of tolerance and the power of reconciliation.”
South Korean media adopted a critical tone, pointing out that Abe stopped short of offering an apology for Japan’s past aggression and that his speech did not contain expressions of deep remorse or repentance, unlike those in the past.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it must not be forgotten that at the time Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it was engaged in a “war of aggression” against China and its other neighbors in Asia.
She said reconciliation between the perpetrators and victims must be based on the “sincere reflection” of the aggrieving party, so that a genuine reconciliation can be achieved.
“To the victimized countries in Asia, it is more in the interest of the future to make one sincere apology than to put on dozens of smart shows,” Hua said.
“We once again urge the Japanese side to look squarely at and deeply reflect upon the past history of aggression, take a responsible attitude to properly handle relevant issues, and make tangible moves to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the world,” she said.
China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency suggested that the absence of an apology from Abe at Pearl Harbor was in line with his past “refusal to reckon with Japanese aggression during World War II.”
“By whitewashing the Japanese wartime history and highlighting the historic devastation caused by U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, right-wing Japanese politicians, including Abe, helped to implant a distorted historical narrative in some Japanese, who till now still believe that the Imperial Japan was the victim,” it said.
In a separate commentary, Xinhua said that if Abe truly wants reconciliation, he should begin with a visit to Nanjing, the site of a 1937 massacre committed by Imperial Japanese troops in China. The city at that time was known as Nanking.
The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party of China, said in an editorial that Japan wants to use the opportunity of Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit “to write off its war crimes during WWII” and its “efforts at reconciliation are misplaced.”
“If Abe wishes to make amends, he should begin closer to home, to show his sincerity to the Chinese, the Koreans, or other Asians his country once afflicted,” it said.