Blunt dismissal by Japan

The International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse
TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 2005
TOKYO–Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura of Japan
called China’s criticism of visits by Japanese
officials to the Yasukuni war shrine absurd and
defended a controversial history textbook, accusing
Beijing of ignoring Tokyo’s record of aid to its
neighbor.
China has said that relations between Beijing and
Tokyo were at a three-decade low because of an annual
pilgrimage by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the
Yasukuni shrine, which honors Japanese war dead,
including 14 convicted war criminals.
“As soon as he visited the Yasukuni shrine, China said
Japan was turning to militarism and we were not
peaceful. This is absurd,” Machimura said. “We gave
them aid, even by issuing deficit-covering bonds. At
least in the ’90s, we were the world’s biggest
provider of aid” to China.”
Machimura’s remarks, made during an address to a
Foreign Ministry committee, were delivered in
unusually blunt terms and thus were a measure of the
degree of tension that remains between China and
Japan, despite some conciliatory gestures in recent
weeks. They also suggested that Japan’s attitude may
be stiffening amid continued criticism. The comments
were first reported by the Kyodo news agency. A
ministry spokeswoman confirmed that Machimura had
spoken about the shrine and foreign aid but said she
could not immediately confirm the news report.
“There has been criticism of Japan as a militaristic
country because of officials’ visits to Yasukuni
Shrine, but that’s outrageous,” Machimura said.
“We can be proud to say that despite being in debt,
Japan had done its utmost to become the world’s top
provider of overseas development aid to other nations
in the 1990s.”
He added: “As a peaceful country, Japan has
passionately helped other countries with development.”
Koizumi has visited the Yasukuni shrine each year
since he took office in 2001, with his last visit on
Jan. 1, 2004. He has indicated that he will go again
this year despite criticism from China and South
Korea, which were invaded by Japan in the last
century, and appeals from former prime ministers
concerned about Japan’s diplomatic isolation.
In April sometimes-violent protests erupted in China,
which accused Japan of failing to atone for its past
after Tokyo approved a history textbook written by
self-described nationalists who believe Japan is too
apologetic about its wartime record.
But on another occasion Monday, Machimura defended the
book, published by the Tokyo firm Fusosha, saying that
“leftist Japanese scholars and journalists” had pushed
the issue out of proportion. “If you read the
textbooks you know,” Machimura said. “Obviously, there
is no textbook that praises militarism and
colonialism.”
“The teachers’ union would not adopt a textbook unless
it has leftist-slanted passages,” Machimura told the
audience, using golf analogies at a luncheon held by
Jiji Press, a Japanese news agency.
“Even the Fusosha book is on the center of the
fairway. Certainly not in the right-side rough.
Certainly not out of bounds,” he said. “I think the
textbook problem was formed only by slogans and
prejudice. If we explain, the issue can be
understood.”
Both China and South Korea summoned the Japanese
ambassadors over the official approval of the
textbook, which says only that “many” Chinese died in
the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Estimates of the death
toll, which is still in dispute, have ranged from
40,000 to more than 300,000. The book also does not
mention the women forced into sexual slavery by
Japanese troops during World War II.
Japan has given China more than ¥3 trillion, or $28
billion, in low-interest loans since 1980 in what has
been widely seen a substitute for compensation.
Japan has said it will end loans to China by the 2008
Olympics – an event that is being cast as symbolic of
the rise of the giant nation – although some technical
assistance could continue. “We have agreed that we
should end economic cooperation in a way that both of
us can celebrate about,” Machimura said.

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