BEIJING, Jan. 9 -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has urged Japanese leaders to respect human conscience in the wake of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.
Wang made the remarks during a recent interview with Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based pan-Arab TV channel, according to a news release issued by the Chinese foreign ministry on Thursday.
Last month, Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead including 14 convicted Class-A World War II criminals tried at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.
The shrine is a symbol of militaristic aggression and all the exhibits there are designed to justify Japan's decision to launch the war of aggression, said the foreign minister.
"This is the place that Abe visited. Worse even, he calls the war criminals 'the souls of the war dead' and 'pays deepest respect' to them," according to Wang.
He said the Japanese prime minister "has gone too far and what he has done is way beyond Japan's domestic affairs."
"In essence, it was an attempt to whitewash Japan's war of aggression, overturn the just trial of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, challenge the outcomes of World War II and the resultant post-war order and lead Japan to danger," Wang told Al Jazeera.
"Lessons of history have to be learned," he said, adding that it is not just a problem between China and Japan, but rather an issue to which the whole international community should pay much attention.
According to Wang, Japanese fascists committed atrocities in Asia, just as German fascists did in Europe in World War II. "In China alone, the Japanese war of aggression inflicted casualties of as many as 35 million, not to mention countless property losses."
He said the Chinese nation is tolerant and generous, explaining, "We have given up war reparations, and furthermore we have told our people that the Japanese people are also victims of militarism and that only the militarists should be held responsible for the war."
Wang said Abe, by "paying homage to" the Class-A war criminals who should take the responsibility for the war, "has crossed the bottom line of human conscience, which is completely unacceptable, not only to China, but to the whole international community."
"It would be unimaginable if this took place in Europe," the foreign minister added.
The only way to open up the future is to expose and condemn the past, Wang said, adding that the only way for Japan to win back the trust of its neighbors is to commit itself to peace.
He urged Japanese leaders to "understand this most basic principle and respect human conscience and internationally recognized red lines."