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China warns Japan against shirking responsibility for WWII

TOKYO (AP) — A Chinese envoy on Thursday warned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to shirk responsibility for Japan’s wartime aggression in his statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the hostilities.

Cheng Yonghua, China’s ambassador to Japan, told a news conference that Beijing is closely watching if Abe’s statement would stick to Tokyo’s past expressions of remorse and would show “sincerity” to the victims of Japanese wartime brutality. He said it will be a sign of Japan’s future direction and relations with Asian neighbors.

Abe is expected to make a statement before the Aug. 15 anniversary.

Relations between Japan and China have been strained over historical and territorial disputes, though less so since Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met last November.

“We will be watching how Japan sums up its past and shows sincerity to the victimized countries, especially the people who suffered from Japan’s wartime actions,” Cheng said. “Any deliberate attempt to blur or shirk Japan’s responsibility would be tantamount to opening up the victims’ wounds and rubbing salt on them.”

Cheng also said China is concerned about Abe’s recent push to enact legislation that would expand the role of Japan’s military, and alleged that Tokyo is emphasizing Beijing’s military activity and portraying China as a potential enemy.

In a landmark 1995 statement by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th anniversary, Japan offered its clearest and most extensive apology to the victims of its wartime aggression and colonial rule.

Abe has said there is no clear definition of aggression and that he was not necessarily standing by the 1995 statement, although he later promised to keep the statement following protests from China and South Korea.

Still, Abe is seen as reluctant to repeat the apology and wants to stress Japan’s postwar achievements. For his two anniversary speeches since taking office in December 2012, Abe omitted war apologies and merely said Japan faces its past and keeps its peace pledges.

In February, Abe appointed experts to review a study of Japan’s wartime history, its economic progress and future contributions before he makes his statement. The report is expected to be 30 to 40 pages and submitted to Abe early next month.

The panel’s co-chairman, Shinichi Kitaoka, diplomatic and political history expert and president of International University of Japan, told reporters after the panel’s final meeting Monday that the report will look forward but reflect on history. “To be forward-looking, you have to take history into consideration,” he said.

“China has repeatedly asked Japan to keep its promise, clearly acknowledge its history of aggression and respond sincerely,” Cheng said. “We have a mountain of solid historical evidence and views that are internationally established.”

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This story has been corrected to say the panel to discuss Abe’s war-end anniversary statement started in February, not in March.

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