China envoy warns Japan not to backtrack on expressions of WW2 remorse

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua speaking at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on July 23, 2015.
Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua speaking at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on July 23, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe needs to clearly express remorse for his nation's World War Two actions or risk "rubbing salt in the wounds" of those who suffered, China's ambassador to Japan said on Thursday.

Ties between the Asian neighbours have long been fraught due to China's memories of Japan's wartime aggression, but relations improved following meetings between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping over the last year. Japanese government sources say another summit could well take place this year.

But some also say China first wants to see a planned statement by Abe marking the 70th anniversary of the war's end, amid concerns he may dilute past government apologies.

Cheng Yonghua, China's ambassador to Japan, warned Japan not to backtrack on previous government statements and said China was keenly waiting, particularly to see if he expressed remorse toward those who suffered from Japan's actions. "If the statement is deliberately made vague, or if it lightens responsibility, it will once again rip open the wounds of China and the other victims, and rub salt in them," Cheng told a news conference in Tokyo.

In landmark 1995 comments known as the Murayama Statement, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama made a "heartfelt apology" for the wartime damage and suffering caused by Japan.

Abe has repeatedly said that he will express remorse in the statement, expected out shortly before the Aug. 15 anniversary of the war's end, but that he will not issue a fresh apology - despite a recent poll by Kyodo news agency that found 67 percent of respondents thought he should.