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The Japanese coastguard has detained 14 Chinese citizens who arrived at the Diaoyu Islands on Wednesday after sailing from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to assert China's sovereignty of the islands.
This is outrageous. Chinese citizens have the right to visit Chinese territory, while Japan has no right to arrest Chinese citizens on Chinese territory. Japan should free them immediately.
Japan has been repeatedly provoking China this year by constantly making waves around the islets, which were not returned to China as they should have been when the United States handed over the administration of Okinawa to Japan in the early 1970s. But each time China has shown restraint. Even when Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, started to raise money in April to buy the Diaoyu Islands, we were willing to view it as just political kabuki.
But since then, Japan has persisted in trying to stir up trouble. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced a plan to "nationalize" the islands in July and threatened to deploy Japan's Self-Defense Forces to the islets. Japan has also roped the United States into its games by claiming the islands "fall within the scope" of Article 5 of the 1960 US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
If Japan doesn't stop its provocative acts, the already weak popular support for endeavors to repair bilateral ties will be further eroded.
As long as Japan persists in reneging on the understanding that the two countries should lay aside the dispute that was agreed when they restored diplomatic relations in 1972, it will only end up shooting itself in the foot.
Shrine shrouds history
And while the rest of the world celebrated the anniversary of the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II on Wednesday, the homage two ministers from the Noda cabinet paid to Yasukuni Shrine dealt another blow to relations between China and Japan.
The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by Yuichiro Hata, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, and Jin Matsubara, the minister of state for consumer affairs and food safety, shows that there are still those in Japan who want to airbrush history.
For China, the Republic of Korea and other victims of Japan's aggression, the shrine is a symbol of Japan's militarism and war crimes, because among the Japanese war dead honored in the shrine are 14 that the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal classified as Class A war criminals.
"Yasukuni shrine is a specific religious facility serving as the political function to justify war by the state and to hide the state's war responsibility," Shinshu Kyodan Rengo, an influential Buddhist organization, told former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, when it sought to dissuade him from visiting the shrine.
Koizumi's frequent visits to the shrine during his time in office soured China-Japan relations for years. The Japanese government knows full well what the shrine signifies to China and other nations that suffered from Japan's aggression.
ROK President Lee Myung-bak's recent demand for an apology from the Japanese Emperor for the suffering caused during Japan's colonial rule reveals how deep the wounds go.
The pain of the past refuses to fade because Japan will not acknowledge its deeds. The nation constantly tries to minimize, downplay, obfuscate and deny the extent of its wartime atrocities and to escape its responsibility.
Unlike Germany, Japan refuses to acknowledge, never mind sincerely apologize, for the war crimes committed by its people. While denying atrocities such as the Nanjing Massacre occurred, it keeps appealing to the world for sympathy for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As long as Japan refuses to face up squarely to its aggression, its willingness to treat other nations with the same respect it expects of them will be in doubt.
When Japan acknowledges the undeniable brutally of its past, the world will know that Japan is ready to join the international community as a full and responsible member. Until then Japan will continue to inspire mistrust in its neighbors and deceive its young people with a false national identity.
China believes that its contemporary relations with Japan should not be held hostage to history. But that does not mean it is endorsing Japan's attempts to rewrite the history books.
Anniversaries offer an appropriate moment for reflection - not to rekindle old anger or open old wounds - but to look for lessons that will help us create a better future.
But there are many troubling signs that some Japanese do not want to learn the lessons of history and instead want to create a past that never existed.
(China Daily 08/16/2012 page8)