TOKYO: The Japanese government secretly led efforts to honor top war criminals at a Tokyo war shrine, according to new documents released this week that undermine Tokyo's stance that their enshrinement is a religious matter off limits to politics.
Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's 2.5 million war dead, has long been considered a symbol of Japan's militaristic past by Japan's neighbors.
Class-A, or top, war criminals executed for their role in World War II were enshrined at Yasukuni in 1978. But the government has insisted it has no influence over the matter because the shrine is an independent religious institution.
|In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing yesterday that China "remains unchanged" in its attitude toward the Yasukuni problem.|
The release of the documents comes only two weeks ahead of a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to Japan, the first by a Chinese premier in seven years due to frosty bilateral relations resulting from repeated visits to the shrine by Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's predecessor.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing yesterday that China "remains unchanged" in its attitude toward the Yasukuni problem.
But Qin noted China and Japan have reached agreement on removing political barriers in developing China-Japan relations.
In Tokyo, 808 government and shrine documents made public in a book released on Wednesday, A New Edition of Materials on the Yasukuni Shrine Issue, indicated that the government was instrumental in having the war criminals honored there.
|Abe yesterday rejected the accusations made in the book and said the ministry had only provided the information at the request of the shrine.|
"Judging from the documents, it was the Health Ministry that made the first move," said Chifuyu Hiyama, an official at the National Diet Library that published the book.
The Health Ministry, which was in charge of the war dead, provided a list containing the names of executed Class-A criminals including wartime leader Hideki Tojo and Kenji Doihara, according to a January 31, 1969 Yasukuni document.
Class-A criminals "can be honored" but the process must be carried out secretly, the document said. "Announcement should be avoided," it added.
It took another nine years before the shrine actually added the 12 Class-A war criminals to the list of honored war dead. The decision was apparently delayed by a series of meetings and discussions among shrine officials.
Another document dated April 1958 said the ministry urged the shrine to list the names of hundreds of lower-ranking Class-B and Class-C war criminals.
|They (the documents) are a systematic record of what the Japanese government and Yasukuni jointly did in honoring the war criminals.|
A senior researcher on Japan studies
"How about enshrining them in a way that would be hard to discover?" a document quoted an unnamed official as saying, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Abe yesterday rejected the accusations made in the book and said the ministry had only provided the information at the request of the shrine.
He repeated the government's position that it was the shrine that made the final decision and that the process did not violate Japan's separation of religion and state.
"I do not think there is any problem," Abe told reporters.
Jin Xide, a senior researcher on Japan studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "They (the documents) are a systematic record of what the Japanese government and Yasukuni jointly did in honoring the war criminals.
"Abe's remarks are obviously contradictory to the facts."
The book, currently only available to Japan's members of parliament, is expected to be made available to the public at parliament, government agencies and offices next month, Hiyama said.
(China Daily 03/30/2007 page1)