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Commentary: Japan's abstaining from shrine visit positive, but history reflections still needed

(Xinhua)

08:06, August 15, 2012

BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reaffirmed Friday that he and his cabinet wouldn't visit the Yasukuni Shrine that honors the war-time dead including top war criminals on Aug. 15, the 67th anniversary of its World War II surrender.

The announcement was a positive sign and should be applauded, but Japan, in order to earn full acceptance and understanding from neighboring countries, perhaps should make more efforts in reflecting upon its wartime past.

It is comforting to see that since the Democratic Party of Japan came in power in 2009, not a Japanese prime minister has visited the shrine.

In contrast, despite strong protest from China, South Korea and some other Asian countries, Japanese leaders, in the past decades, from time to time, visited the shrine that honors 2.5 million Japanese killed in wars, including 14 Class-A war criminals.

Noda's latest decision could be regarded as a means to alleviate growing public anger in neighboring countries against Japan's unrepentant attitude toward World War II, in which Japanese forces invaded the countries and brutally killed tens of millions of people.

The prime minister was aimed at calming the nerves of neighboring countries it invaded, especially China, and preventing Sino-Japanese ties from falling into an "unimaginable abyss," as a Japanese newspaper said in a recent commentary.

Japan's pragmatic take on historical issues with China and other Asian countries is on the right track, but it is still far from a complete reflection upon and rectification of its war aggressions.

A growing force of right-wing extremism is stoking nationalism within Japan. It refuses to acknowledge the invasive nature of the war, sees Japan's surrender on Aug. 15, 1945 as a national shame, and advocates for a victim-of-war mentality as Japan was hit by two atomic bombs before its surrender. Many Japanese people still grudge to see its history as it was.
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