China’s ambassador to Cambodia, Bu Jianguo, lashed out against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit last month to a controversial shrine honoring Japan’s war dead in a letter published Tuesday in a Khmer-language newspaper.
Mr. Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in late December in a move that immediately worsened already rocky relations between Japan and China. Among the 2.5 million war dead whose souls are venerated there are scores of war criminals behind Japan’s brutal invasion and occupation of China during the World War II (WWII).
In a letter published in the Khmer Daily, Ms. Bu called the visit “a flagrant provocation to the peace-loving people of the entire world” and said it was “destroying regional stability and peace.”
As well as their decades-old animosities over the war, the two countries are now in a bitter rivalry over disputed islands between them. Both have been working to bolster their influence with their Southeast Asian neighbors, including Cambodia, which counts China as its largest investor and Japan as its most generous foreign aid donor.
“This act is seriously destructive and sabotages the political base of the relations between China and Japan,” Ms. Bu wrote of the Japanese prime minister’s shrine visit. “The act brazenly affronts people of all countries that once suffered from Japanese militarist aggression.”
Cheng Hong Bo, who heads the Chinese Embassy’s political section, said the ambassador weighed in on the dispute because Mr. Abe’s visit to the shrine was also an affront to Cambodians.
“The war of aggression waged by Japanese militarism during WWII brought not only untold disasters to the Chinese but also deep suffering to other victimized Asian peoples including Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia,” he said. “Thus it is necessary to tell the above mentioned truth to the local people here.”
Mr. Cheng said the ambassador’s letter ran in two Khmer papers and four local Chinese language publications.
The Japanese Embassy’s counselor, Takayoshi Kuromiya, insisted that Mr. Abe’s visit to the shrine was misunderstood by the Chinese.
“His intention to visit Yasukuni Shrine was to pay respect to the war dead and to pledge never to wage war again,” he said. “For the 68 years since World War II, Japan has consistently respected freedom, democracy and rule of law and has contributed to the peace and prosperity of Asia in reality. Japan will not deviate from this path as a peaceful state.”