Tokyo's war crime recognition crucial

Updated: 2012-10-17 07:01

By Fu Jing, Li Xiang and Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)

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Leading European scholars have urged Japan to follow Germany's example and "fully recognize the terrible human sufferings" imposed on Chinese and other Asians during World War II, saying such a recognition would be a very important element in solving the Beijing-Tokyo dispute over the Diaoyu Islands.

The scholars made the comments as Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba arrived in Paris on Tuesday. He will leave for London on Wednesday, and then move to Germany on a three-country European tour.

Gemba is seeking diplomatic solutions regarding the "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands, which belong to China.

Pierre Defraigne, the executive director of Brussels-based Madariaga-College of Europe Foundation, said: "A key element of the causes of the dispute (over the Diaoyu Islands) is the terrible human sufferings imposed by Japan on the Chinese people, which it has not fully recognized."

Defraigne told China Daily that diplomatic and political efforts between Beijing and Tokyo are the only way to a peaceful solution to the dispute, emphasizing China clearly has ownership of the islands.

"But I think there is a re-recognition needed to be made, by the two 'former enemies', of the terrible human sufferings of the Chinese people (during the World War II)," said Defraigne.

He added that Japan should also recognize China's economic and geopolitical rise, "which is generally a positive thing, not against any country, or carrying any prejudice".

The scholar said the Japanese should learn from Germany, which on the contrary, has repeatedly had the courage and honesty to face up to the atrocities that were committed by its countrymen during World War II.

He added that Germany and around 15 European countries have laws against anyone making public denials or any attempts to rewrite such history, which carry penalties of imprisonment of up to five years or hefty fines.

But in Japan, some right-wing Japanese often deny their massacres in China and other countries during previous years.

"We have to live with the memory of the past, but it must not be an obstacle in the way of any further cooperation, especially given the maritime importance of the area to China and the rest of the world," said Defraigne.

Chinese embassy officials in Germany, UK, France, Belgium and other countries have held meetings with foreign counterparts, stating Beijing's position regarding its ownership of the Diaoyu Islands.

Pierre Picquart, China specialist and geopolitical professor at University of Paris 8, agreed that negotiation is the best way to solve the dispute and that Japan's "nationalization" of the islands will hurt the stability and economic development in the area.

"China and Japan should get round the table to resolve the tension in an area, which needs stability and economic development," Picquart said.

"European leaders should understand that a peaceful solution of the issue and the region's stability are in the best interests of Asia, Europe and the world," he said.

Kerry Brown, executive director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney, a professor in Chinese Politics and a former head of the Asia Program at London-based Chatham House, said China should also recognize the role Washington is playing in finding a solution to the dispute.

"The US needs to use all its diplomatic leverage to calm both sides to stress the need for negotiation, and prevent both sides from becoming embroiled in a needless and potentially very dangerous escalation of conflict," said Brown.

Celine Pajon, a researcher on Japanese and Asian affairs at the French Institute of International Relations, was confident that the European nations were likely to take a "prudent approach" toward the island dispute.

"There must be a peaceful resolution, because the economic consequences could be quite significant for Europe too," she said.

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