This year's August 15 marks the 60th anniversary of the victory of the eight-year most arduous and difficult resistance war against Japanese aggression by the Chinese people. At this very moment one cannot help but cast eyes upon Japan -- a war initiator who is reluctant to repent. The fact is that on this day Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did not bow to the pressure of the right-wingers on visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. He even issued a written statement to once again express reflection and offer apologies for the inflictions caused by the colonial rule and invasion on the peoples of Asian countries. People took note of the fact that the statement uses words like "colonial rule" and "invasion". The statement also says Japan should face up to the past, have a correct understanding of the history and join hands with Asian countries to develop cooperative relations oriented toward future on the basis of mutual understanding and trust. The remarks are sure a progress compared to the ambiguous apologies in the past therefore deserve acknowledgement.
Koizumi's statement may after all be accepted as a sensible move. As known to all, the Yasukuni Shrine was the spiritual leaven for Japanese militarism before the war and many Japanese youths embarked on a path to kill under its influence. After the war the shrine became a gathering place for war criminal spirits and right-wingers advocating absurd theories like "meritorious aggression", "invalid trial" and "innocent war criminals". Visit made by Koizumi as the head of the government to such a place is naturally viewed as representing the Japanese government's understanding of and attitude toward the aggression war. Particularly, a visit to such a place on the anniversary of the downfall of the fascists is tantamount to a challenge to human conscience and international justice. It is a move in defiance of the feelings of the peoples in victimized countries. It was for this reason that Koizumi's four previous visits and the words and deeds of the right-wingers denying the aggression greatly damaged Japan's relations with its neighboring countries and smeared Japan's international moral image.
It should be acknowledged that Koizumi's statement is also a move conforming to popular sentiments. Recently, several polls have shown that over half Japanese people, including the speaker of the House of Representatives and several former prime ministers, are against the Prime Minister's damaging relations with neighboring countries because of his "personal belief". At a time when the outcome of the House of Representatives election is still hanging in the air, Koizumi has to consider the trend of mainstream public opinion.
Nevertheless, people are not without worries besides relief. They still remember the August 15 ten years ago when the then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama published the famous "Murayama Statement" in which he admitted Japan's past aggression brought great damage and pain to Asian countries and expressed willingness to sincerely reflect and avoid repeating the past mistake. The Asian countries were once deeply relieved by the "Murayama Statement". However, such a statement even has no binding force on Japanese politicians. Groups of Japanese high-ranking officials such as Aso Taro and Shinzo Abe persisted their old ways. They not only paid visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, but also talked wildly, continuing to whitewash the aggression. Even Junichiro Koizumi himself did not pay attention to the "Murayama Statement" but paid visit to the shrine four times in a row, setting a record among Japanese prime ministers.
People can still remember that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a similar statement at the Asia-Africa Summit held in April. It was on that day that as many as over 80 cabinet members and lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which made people doubt the sincerity of Koizumi's apology. This time Japanese cabinet members including the trade minister and a group of lawmakers went to visit the shrine on August 14 and 15. It gives people the impression that Koizumi doesn't want to keep the cabinet ministers in check. Moreover, although he did not pay the visit on August 15 himself, neither did he say he wouldn't do it anymore.
Therefore, while welcoming Junichiro Koizumi's statement, one cannot but remain on guard and reserved -- listen to his words and watch his deeds. People so hope that Koizumi's apology this time is a sincere remorse rather than a reluctant move compelled by circumstances. It is hoped that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Japanese politicians would from now on speak only from the bottom of heart, see their actions through to the end and win the understanding and trust of Asian countries by making their deeds square with their words.
This article by Li Xuejiang on the frontpage of People's Daily Overseas Edition is translated by People's Daily Online