ROC criticizes Koizumi for shrine visit

Hsieh Kuo-lien, The China Post

Taiwan officials yesterday criticized Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for his visit to a controversial war shrine, describing it as a move that hurts the feelings of people in neighboring countries. Military Spokesman Major General Huang Suey-sheng told reporters that “Many of our servicemen and civilians lost their lives in the Eight-Year War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945).” “As a result, the Republic of China armed forces are not willing to see any of the Japanese prime ministers pay homage at the Yasukuni war shrine,” the general added. Huang made the remarks at a news conference yesterday, one day after Koizumi visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine. Many of the war dead, who are honored at the war shrine by Japanese people, are actually war criminals who had been convicted of genocide and given the death penalty by the Allies at the end of the World War II. Chang Siao-yue, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that although Koizumi has avoided visiting the war shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s Aug. 15, 1945 World War II surrender, the visit has apparently hurt the feelings of people in its neighboring countries. Koizumi claimed that Japan has made a comprehensive evaluation of the historical mistakes made previously by the Japanese government, Chang said it has to face up the history and to make an effort to build up sound relations with its Asian neighbors. Chang went on to say that Japan should also join other Asian countries in promoting democracy, liberty and stability in the region. She added that the ministry has directed the ROC’s representative office in Tokyo to forward Taiwan’s stance on the issue to the Japanese government.

Officials with the representative office yesterday expressed regret over Koizumi’s visit, saying that Taiwan is hopeful that Japan will handle the issue with wisdom and prudence after taking into account the feelings of its neighbors.

Asked to make a comment on the visit, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung said yesterday that “As a neighboring country of Japan, we expect the Japanese government to take into consideration our feelings.” He told reporters that Japan ought to make an effort to ensure a peaceful and stable Asia. Nonetheless, the right-wing New Party (NP) accused the Chen Shui-bian administration of failing to adopt a hard-line stance toward Koizumi’s visit. Lawmaker Hsieh Chi-ta, a leader of the NP, said “Our last generation defeated Japan in the war but some people in our generation have forgotten about the history.” Hsieh said that some South Korean people chopped off their fingers with scythes to express their anger but President Chen so far made no response to the visit. The South Korean protesters chopped off their little fingers in front of the Independence Gate in Seoul Monday and shouted slogans against Koizumi’s visit. Hsieh also blamed former President Lee Teng-hui, who grew up in Taiwan when it was under Japanese rule, for his attempt to defocus the history of Japan’s invasion of mainland China. She said that, like Lee, President Chen also shows no discontent over the Japanese high-school history textbook, which tries to exculpate Japan from the charges of war crimes. She went on to say that the NP will pay homage to the Taipei-based Martyrs Shrine on Saturday in an effort to raise historical awareness. The opposition party has collected signatures of Taiwan people and will send them to the Japanese government protesting the controversial history textbook. Some local history scholars also expressed dissatisfaction with the Chen Shui-bian administration’s weak stance shown in handling the affairs between Taiwan and Japan. Wu Mi-cha, Vice Chairman of the Cabinet-level Council for Cultural Affairs, said “Taiwan should be sure to have strong stances on those issues,” Wu, who was a renowned professor of history at the National Taiwan University, stressed that he made the remarks in the capacity of a scholar rather than an official of the Chen administration. Wu said that although the Chen administration is more willing to have a dialogue with Japan, “It is generally believed that the Taiwan government is too weak.” “Japan had ruled Taiwan for 50 years and Korea for 35 years. Japan has made an apology to the South Korean government but never apologized to Taiwan.” “Why? Because Taiwan has never demanded Japan do so and has always refrained from commenting on those issues,” he said, adding that the government should demand an apology. History scholar Chang Yu-fa of the Academia Sinica said Germany has continued to evaluate what it did during World War II, but “Japan has never made an apology to Taiwan and has not even admitted to the war crimes that it committed during the war.” Distinguished scholars see Koizumi’s visit to the war shrine as a salute to Japanese invaders killed during the attacks. Koizumi paid respects at the controversial war shrine Monday, keeping his word to visit the shrine but failing to do so on the anniversary of Japan’s Aug. 15, 1945 World War II surrender. However, the visit immediately outraged Beijing and Seoul as both countries interpreted the visit as overt support for imperialism and militarism by the Japanese government.