China says Japan should have made ‘sincere’ World War II apology

A Japanese flag hangs in the grounds of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
A Japanese flag hangs in the grounds of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China said Japan missed a chance to offer a “sincere apology” for its World War II aggression on Friday, hours after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Tokyo’s past expressions of  “deep remorse” over the conflict.

“Japan should have made an explicit statement on the nature of the war of militarism and aggression and its responsibility on the wars, made sincere apology to the people of victim countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

It was Beijing’s first official reaction to Abe’s remarks Friday on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, when he said that Japan’s future generations should not have to keep apologising.

Hua added Japan should have made “a clean break with the past of militarist aggression, rather than being evasive on this major issue of principle.”

The Japanese prime minister has faced criticism for playing down his country’s war record and trying to expand its present-day military.

Without mentioning Abe by name, Hua said that China “has taken note of the statement made by the Japanese leader", adding that executive vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui “has already expressed China’s solemn position to Japanese Ambassador to China Masato Kitera”.

Abe’s statement was closely watched in China, where memories of Japan’s invasion that began in the 1930s and lasted until its defeat in 1945 are still a source of anger among the general populace.

State media is known to use sensitivities over the era to stoke nationalist sentiment during times of tension between the two countries, which are locked in a maritime territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

Hua added that historical questions directly affect their political relations as well as the feelings of the Chinese people.

Japan should “face squarely the history of aggression and do serious soul searching about it, stick to the path of peaceful development, and take credible actions to win the trust of its neighbours in Asia and the international community", she said.