UN plea made on war victims

Updated: 2014-01-14 01:24

By HE WEI in Shanghai and ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing (China Daily)

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Comments seen by analysts as indirect criticism of Japan

World leaders must be sensitive to the memory of war victims and address historical or territorial issues based on facts, according to a senior United Nations official.

UN plea made on war victims

Jeffrey Feltman is the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs.

The UN encourages countries in Northeast Asia to find a common way to understand history, Jeffrey Feltman, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, said in a China Daily interview during his trip to Shanghai.

"The rest of the world looks at Northeast Asia as a model where you have the economic growth potential that other regions envy," Feltman said.

"But we regret the fact that there are still issues of the past that continue to overshadow this region."

He said it is essential that all UN members touch on the most sensitive issues, be they historical or territorial, based on the facts.

Ties between China and Japan worsened after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Dec 26. Fourteen convicted class-A war criminals are honored at the shrine.

The visit has especially angered China and South Korea, which view the shrine as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression.

In an unusual response, the United States, Japan's traditional ally, expressed disappointment over the visit.

Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Feltman's remarks expressed indirect criticism of Japan's behavior.

Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi started a five-day damage-control trip to the US on Monday to justify Abe's decision.

Abe, who has pushed for a revision of textbooks to whitewash invasions by Japan during World War II, has sparked condemnation from the international community.

Liu Jiangyong, deputy dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, said leading Japanese figures have frequently visited the shrine.

They have done so to revitalize its role as "a spiritual pillar of the past militaristic Japan and a public mood motivator that will rally support for Japan's future military operations overseas", Liu said.

"The Japanese leadership should pay pilgrimage to victimized people in Asian neighbors, not just to the war dead of their own country," Liu said.

In a People's Daily article on Monday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua said Abe was deceiving everybody, including himself, when he explained that his visit to the shrine was to promise "no war".

"Praying for peace and renewing the 'no war' pledge at such a place is nothing but a huge blasphemy of peace," the ambassador said.

Feltman said it is crucial to addresses past issues without abusing history, and the cornerstone is to come up with a reference point that everyone agrees to in the future.

"There is a common history that people in Northeast Asia have. We strongly believe that there is a way for leaders in this region to talk face to face and address this extremely sensitive issue directly and in a cooperative way," Feltman said.

Feng Zhaokui, a researcher in Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the biggest problem for Japan is its dishonesty toward history.

"Although Abe claimed that he is willing to talk to his Chinese counterpart face to face, it was Japan that closed the door to talks," Feng said.

Contact the writers at hewei@chinadaily.com.cn and zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn

Zhang Fan in Beijing contributed to this story.