Abe's reliability in doubt: Congress report

Updated: 2014-02-27 00:45

By ZHANG YUNBI (China Daily)

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Japanese PM's twist on history may clash with US concept of its role during WWII

A report from the US Congress blasted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's view on Japan's militarist history, saying his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has led to mounting mistrust between Tokyo and Washington.

The shrine in Tokyo is widely viewed as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, honoring 14 Class-A war criminals convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East after World War II.

"In addition to exacerbating regional tensions, the fact that Abe chose to ignore US advice with the surprise visit may have breached a degree of trust between the capitals," said a report released on Monday by the Congressional Research Service, Japan's NHK Television reported.

Abe's Dec 26 visit to the shrine enraged China and South Korea, while the US embassy in Japan also issued an unusually strong response, saying it was "disappointed".

"There is ... the danger that Abe's views on history could clash with Americans' conception of the US role in World War II and the subsequent occupation of Japan," Japan's Kyodo News Agency quoted the report as saying.

Although Japan plays a leading role in the US pivot to Asia, "the far-right tendency of the Abe Cabinet has prompted Washington to stop Tokyo from going too far," said Teng Jianqun, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.

Naoki Hyakuta, a governor at NHK and a close friend of Abe, said earlier this month that the US staged the postwar trial of Japanese leaders to cover up its own war crimes.

Labeled as a "nationalist" by Time magazine, Hyakuta even claimed that the 1937 Nanjing Massacre — an atrocity committed by the invading Japanese army in China — "never happened".

Referring to the congressional report, Beijing urged Japan on Wednesday to "sincerely repent of its history of aggression and colonial rule" in the first half of the 20th century.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the recent remarks by prominent Japanese political figures, attempting to whitewash Japan's wartime history have challenged the postwar international order. She said that such an outlook was wrong and "makes Japan a troublemaker that risks regional peace and security".

David Shear, who has been nominated as the US Defense Department's top policy official for the Asia-Pacific region, told a congressional hearing on Tuesday about the need to repair the relationship between Japan and China.

He also expressed concerns over the situation in the East China Sea, Japan's Asahi Television reported. "We would look with great concern at the use of force or coercion in the region," Shear said.

In another development, Japanese chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that Japan is making "final preparations" for the return of weapons-grade plutonium borrowed from the US.

Concerns arose after Japan's Kyodo News Agency in January quoted government sources in the US and Japan as saying the plutonium — given to Japan for research purposes during the Cold War era — could be used to produce 40 to 50 nuclear weapons, and since then Japan had strongly resisted returning the material.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan on Wednesday to return the nuclear materials "at an early date".

Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, warned that Japan "may seek to become an owner of nuclear weapons someday" if the US at some point changes its policy of protecting Japan and "containing" China.

Xinhua News Agency criticized Japan in a commentary on Wednesday, saying that Japanese politicians are trying to break the non-nuclear principles it has held for decades.

"Japan has hoarded nuclear materials — including massive amounts of weapons-grade plutonium —that pose a threat to regional peace," the article said.