The move is the latest in a vitriolic diplomatic spat between Asia’s two largest economies, who are at loggerheads over disputed territory and differing interpretations of their shared history.
Meanwhile, Tokyo said it was pressing ahead with a controversial plan to re-examine evidence on which a 1993 apology for the system of wartime sex slavery was based, an issue that provokes particularly strong feelings in South Korea.
State media in China reported Thursday that the National People’s Congress, the rubberstamp parliament, had designated September 3 as victory day and December 13 as a day to remember those killed when imperial troops raped and pillaged the then-capital of Nanjing.
Japan invaded China in the 1930s and the two countries fought a full-scale war from 1937 to 1945.
China says more than 300,000 people were slaughtered by Japanese troops in a six-week killing spree in Nanjing, which started on December 13, 1937. Some foreign academics put the figure lower.
It was unclear what significance the formal “national days” will have, although they are not expected to be public holidays.
Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Friday he could not understand why China had made this change at this point.
“I can’t deny there is a question why they have to set up these commemoration days more than 60 years after the war,” he said.
“But this is a domestic matter for China, so the government declines to comment on it.
“Japan’s position on World War II has not changed a bit, and Japan has followed the path of peaceful nationhood since the end of the war, which has been highly commended by the international community,” he added.
‘Re-examine and understand’
Tokyo and Beijing are embroiled in a series of rows, including a long-running diplomatic set-to over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Abe told the parliament this week he “must make more effort” to get countries such as China and South Korea to understand his pilgrimage.
Suga said Abe “meant to say that his visit was to pledge that Japan would never wage war again, that he would build a peaceful nation”.
At a parliamentary committee, Suga separately said the administration would set up a team to look at the lead-up to the 1993 apology issued to “comfort women”, the euphemism for those forced to work in Japanese military brothels during WWII.
“We’d like to launch a team to re-examine and understand the background (of the statement),” he said, according to Kyodo News. He did not elaborate on any plan to issue a new declaration, a move that would meet with anger from South Korea.
Some on Japan’s right insist comfort women were merely common prostitutes, and that the state had nothing to do with coercion. Most respected historians dispute this view.
China and South Korea often call on Japan to “reflect” on its past, while Tokyo says its neighbours use history as a diplomatic stick to beat it with.
Japan’s official position, one that has been repeatedly endorsed by successive governments, is that it inflicted grievous harm on the populations of countries it invaded, and has offered numerous apologies.
However, comments by senior right wing figures — including those with close connections to Abe — on the veracity of events like the Nanjing Massacre regularly undermine that stance.Source: The West Australian “Japan says puzzled by WWII national days
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- Japan says puzzled by new China WWII national days (channelnewsasia.com)
- Japan plays down China’s remembrance days to mark Nanjing Massacre, WWII (straitstimes.com)
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