|Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi summons Japanese Ambassador to China Masato Kitera (not in photo), strongly protesting and condemning Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the war-linked Yasukuni shrine, in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 26, 2013. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)|
BEIJING, Dec. 26 -- China on Thursday condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine, saying the gesture is "a major new political obstacle" to already strained relations.
"China will not tolerate," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi while summoning Japanese Ambassador to China, Kitera Masato, after Abe's Thursday visit to the shrine, where 14 WWII class-A war criminals are honored.
Wang said Abe's visit severely went against the principle and spirit of the four political documents between the two countries, as well as the commitment made by former Japanese administrations and leaders on historical issues, and erected a major new political obstacle to the already strained China-Japan relations.
Abe's visit is the first by a serving Japanese prime minister since 2006. Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the shrine during his tenure from 2001 to 2006 were a major factor that affected the ties between Japan and its Asian neighbors.
Wang vowed China will fight to the finish if Japan continues to deliberately challenge the baseline of China-Japan relations, and intensify the two countries' tension and confrontation.
He also warned that Abe's deeds are taking Japan to a "very dangerous direction." The international community, including China, should step up their vigilance, and not allow Japan to retrace its historical steps.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang and Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng also voiced strong protest and condemnation.
Japanese aggression brought atrocities to China and other Asian countries and deeply hurt the Japanese people, Qin said.
Qin labeled the Yasukuni shrine as "a spiritual tool and symbol" of Japanese aggression in WWII.
Abe's visit to the shrine whitewashes Japanese aggression and colonial rule, overthrows the international community's trial of Japanese militarism and challenges the post-war international order, said the spokesman.
Qin said the prime minister's actions have given Japan's neighbors and the international community every reason to be highly vigilant and deeply concerned over the road Japan will take in the future.
Japanese politicians' visits to the Yasukuni shrine anger Japan's neighbors, such as China and the Republic of Korea (ROK). Since Abe took office, his administration has shown an irresponsible attitude to Japan's war history by refusing to apologize to its Asian neighbors and trying to revise the pacifist constitution.
Qin said China-Japan relations have faced "severe difficulties" since the Japanese government announced in September 2012 its plan to "purchase" part of the Diaoyu Islands, a move that contributed to the disintegration of bilateral relations. Japan also incited the so-called "China threat" and severely damaged China's security interests.
"In such circumstances, Japanese leaders showed no restraint, but went from bad to worse, making serious trouble on historical problems, which erect a major new political obstacle to the improvement and development of China-Japan relations," the spokesman said, adding that Japan must "accept all the consequences." ' The ROK government also warned on Thursday that relations with Japan could tailspin to a historical low due to Abe's shrine visit.
"Only if Japan faces up to and reflects on the history of invasion, and takes the history as a mirror can it develop a relationship oriented to the future with its neighbors," Qin said.
He urged Japan to take measures to correct its mistakes and eliminate the destructive right wing influence to regain the trust of its neighbors and the international community with concrete actions.
At a regular press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Qin again criticized Abe's visit as a "major issue of principle" politically and diplomatically.
"The real problem of the visit to Yasukuni shrine is whether Japan can correctly understand and reflect on the real meaning and its history of militarism aggression," Qin said.
This concerns the relationship between Japan and its neighbors, the political foundation of China-Japan relations, the outcome of WWII and the postwar international order, and peace and stability of Asia and the world, he added.
"If Abe really respects his neighbors and wants to improve relations, he should visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall instead of the Yasukuni shrine," Qin said.
At least 300,000 Chinese were killed over the course of six weeks by Japanese invaders after the soldiers occupied the city of Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu Province on Dec. 13, 1937.
Zhou Yongsheng, a Chinese research fellow of Japan studies, said Abe's visit is also aimed at gaining support from domestic right-wing forces, and to remedy his failure in foreign relations.
"Abe is like a gambler. He tried to gain more support by the visit. This is a realistic consideration," said Zhou, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University.
Gao Hong, researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe chose the end of year to pay the visit because he wants to fulfill his commitment to the right-wing forces and lay a foundation for the strategy and political line he wants to practise in the next year. However, such confrontational action is very "foolish."
Gao warned that China-Japan relations will become "colder" and their tug of war is likely to be permanent.
A number of Japanese political parties, including political allies, criticized the visit, with some expressing strong opposition.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the small New Komeito Party, which is part of the ruling coalition with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, said his party had consistently urged the prime minister to avoid visiting the shrine.
"The prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine will make Japan's relations with China and South Korea tougher," he said.
With regard to Abe's claim that his visit is to mourn the heroes who fought and died for the country, and Japan's peace and prosperity were built on the basis of their sacrifice, Qin said history already has a judgment of the invasion. The Japanese leader's words are "confusing the public and confounding right and wrong."
"Some Japanese politicians mention democracy, freedom and peace, while harking back to the spirit of militarism and redacting the history of invasion and colonization. This is blasphemy against democracy, freedom and peace," he said.