Japan must show respect: France

Updated: 2014-01-11 02:25

By Zhou Wa in Beijing and Li Xiang in Paris (China Daily)

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French FM calls for easing of tensions to protect world economic order

Japan must show respect: France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (right), alongside his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, said the tensions between China and Japan are a source of concern, during a news conference on Thursday in Paris. BERTRAND GUAY / Agence France-Presse

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Tokyo to draw lessons from France and Germany to resolve sensitive historical issues, Phoenix TV reported on Friday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered global criticism with his visit to a World War II shrine that honors war criminals.

Observers said the question is not whether Tokyo would like to learn lessons from its two former enemies in Europe. It is more about Japan's lack of willingness to correct its wrong attitude toward its militaristic history.

During a meeting with their French counterparts on Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera defended Abe's visit to the Tokyo-based Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals.

Fabius responded that "these things have to be resolved through the work of historians, public opinion and with respect for others."

Speaking of the rift between China and Japan, Fabius said, "The tensions are a source of concern. ... We want this part of the world to find solutions to ease tensions."

Abe's visit to the shrine on Dec 26 was immediately condemned by Beijing and Seoul, and even by Japan's ally Washington.

The gap between Beijing and Tokyo widened dramatically in 2012, with Japan's illegal "purchase" of China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Relations were further strained by Abe's shrine visit.

When it comes to the history of aggression, Germany and Japan display dramatically different attitudes, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said on Friday.

During a visit to Poland in 1970, then German chancellor Willy Brandt knelt at the monument to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an event notorious for its brutal suppression of Jews by German troops. Ghetto residents who were not killed were deported to concentration camps for extermination.

"The French-German reconciliation, the European integration and more than a half-century of peace and prosperity on the European continent are all based on Germany's solemn reflection and sincere acknowledgement of guilt with respect to its history of Nazism," Hua said.

Responding to a question from a Chinese journalist at the Paris news conference, Kishida said that Abe had apologized to those in China and South Korea who were offended. He added that Abe went to the Yasukuni Shrine to pray for peace.

Abe also said on a television program on Wednesday that he will continue to carry on with the responsibilities of being prime minister even as his shrine visit is being criticized, Japan's Jiji Press said.

Abe's remark indicated that he plans to visit the shrine in the future, the report said.

"Japan is going back on its word with the behavior of its leaders. Despite the hope for regional peace, Japan has never shown sincerity," said Lyu Yaodong, a researcher on Japanese studies with the Academy of Social Sciences.

"The logic is ridiculous. Who prays for peace by honoring war criminals who acted as if human life is not worth a straw?" Lyu said.

Abe's visit to the shrine was a very unwise move that shocked the international community, said Celine Pajon, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations.

"France seems to have been very prudent and cautious in getting involved in the historic issues between China and Japan," Pajon said. "But it has important trading and economic interests in the region.

"Stable bilateral relations between Beijing and Tokyo are absolutely essential to maintaining international and regional stability, and economic order."

Pierre Picquart, a China observer and professor of geopolitics at the University of Paris VIII said that France should exert a positive influence in the Pacific region to ensure stability and economic development.

"Europe needs to promote a balance. It should first begin with the end of the arms embargo against China and ask Japan to respect history," he said.

Contact the writers at zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn and lixiang@chinadaily.com.cn