Tokyo urged to end militarism

Updated: 2014-01-08 01:25

By Li Xiaokun and Ren Qi (China Daily)

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Foreign Ministry calls comments from envoy 'unreasonable'

Tokyo urged to end militarism

South Koreans protest against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Seoul on Dec 27, one day after Abe paid his respects at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors World War II war criminals. Lee Jin-man / Associated Press

Japan has to rid itself of the "demon" of militarism to regain trust from the international community, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, after the war of words between the neighbors escalated, even embroiling a fictional Harry Potter villain.

In an article published in the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Keiichi Hayashi said China risks playing "the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side".

He was referring to the evil Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series.

"His remarks are very ignorant, unreasonable and arrogant," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

"Crimes of aggression committed by Japanese militarists in history are too numerous and cannot be denied or erased by anybody," she said, adding that Japanese aggression caused 35 million deaths and casualties among Chinese people.

Hayashi's comment was an apparent response to an earlier statement by Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming, who criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

"If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul," Liu said in comments carried by the Daily Telegraph on Jan 1.

In the Harry Potter series, horcruxes are magical objects holding the souls of evil characters and enabling them to achieve immortality.

French newspaper Le Figaro said the quarrel between Beijing and Tokyo has evolved from the exchange of dull diplomatic and political formulas to the interesting and bold art of language.

Correspondent Allison Jackson, writing on the US news website GlobalPost, said, "While the name-calling may conjure up images of a childish playground spat between leaders of the two countries, the issues underlying the dispute are more serious."

The Yasukuni Shrine, honoring Japan's war dead in World War II, including Class-A war criminals, is seen as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past.

The move further infuriated Beijing and Seoul, which have been angry with Japan's reluctance to admit its war atrocities.

"The Japanese leader publicly visited the Yasukuni Shrine ... What is that if not lingering militarism in Japan?" Hua asked.

"Militarist aggression is the darkest demon in the country's history. Japan will truly regain trust from its Asian neighbors and the international society only if it dares to face and beat the demon in its history and its mind, or it will remain in the dock of history."

The dispute in the Daily Telegraph is just the latest round in the two countries' fight for international support. They have also previously done battle in the pages of The New York Times.

"International public opinion now stands with China because the inappropriate behavior of Tokyo to honor war criminals goes against anti-fascist opinion," said Zhou Yongsheng, an expert at China Foreign Affairs University.

Aware of the difficulty in getting international support on Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo is trying to shift the focus from the controversial issue to China's military funding, Zhou said.

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