Japanese Ambassador Defends Abe’s Visit to Yasukuni War Shrine

In his own letter to a local Khmer-language newspaper, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia on Tuesday fired back at an earlier missive from the Chinese ambassador rebuking Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his visit to a controversial shrine for his country’s war dead last month.

In a lengthy letter that ran in several local Khmer- and Chinese-language newspapers last week, Chinese Ambassador Bu Jianguo called Mr. Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine “a flagrant provocation to the peace-loving people of the entire world” and accused him of “destroying regional stability and peace.”

Official visits to the shrine by Japanese premiers have always been a sore point with China. Among the 2.5 million war dead venerated there are several convicted war criminals, including 14 Class A criminals who were behind Japan’s brutal invasion and occupation of eastern China during World War II.

In a letter published by Rasmei Kampuchea Daily on Tuesday, Japanese Ambassador Kumamaru Yuji says Ms. Bu misunderstood the visit and lauds Japan’s contributions to peace and development in Cambodia.

“We can’t accept what she said,” Mr. Yuji wrote. “The Chinese ambassador’s interpretation is that Japan is affecting peace and stability in the region.”

On the contrary, Mr. Yuji says the Japanese premier visited the shrine with the intention of promoting peace, not “destroying” it.

“The Yasukuni Shrine not only enshrines those who sacrificed their lives during World War II but the souls of 2.5 million heroes… who sacrificed their lives for the cause of their country since 1853,” he says. “Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine does not show respect or support for the activities of the Class A prisoners of war and had no intention of reinterpreting the militarist regime before World War II.”

Mr. Yuji goes on to note the help Cambodia has received from Japan—its most generous foreign aid donor—over the decades.

“Looking at the bilateral relations between Japan and Cambodia since 1980, Japan has actively contributed to restoration, peace building and the reconstruction of the country and to political stability,” he says. “Being aware of the reality of Japan’s international contribution, I think that all Cambodians will understand clearly about Japan’s real face and stance.”

On top of their decades-old animosities over the war, China and Japan are currently in a heated dispute over contested islands that lie between them. Both countries have also been working hard to bolster their influence among their neighbors in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia.

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