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Home > Topics > Riposte to Abe and Japanese Militarism
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming talks to ITV News at Ten
2014/01/06

On 3 January 2014, H.E.Ambassador Liu Xiaoming talked to ITV diplomatic correspondent John Ray at ITV News at Ten programme. Ambassador Liu criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempt to revive militarism in Japan, elaborated on China's solemn stand concerning the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, and called on the international community to stop the rise of Japanese militarism, with a view to safeguarding regional stability and world peace. The full text of the interview is as follows.

John Ray: Can I start with Lord Voldemort? This is a very vivid language that you've used. Why compare Japan to a character who is pure evil?

Ambassador Liu: I think there are some similarities between the two because Lord Voldemort will not be destroyed if you don't destroy all the seven horcruxes. And I made the comparison because militarism has not been completely destroyed, and because the Yakusuni Shrine is always alive in the memory of the Japanese people. Some people think China makes a big fuss about this visit. But I do think the visit by Japanese leaders, especially national leaders to pay respect to a shrine which honours war criminals, especially 14 Class A war criminals who inflicted enormous casualties and damages on the people who suffered from that war, including British people. In fact, Hideki Tojyo, the leading war criminal among the 14, not only started war against China, but also declared war on America, on Britain and on the Netherlands. So we believe this is really a matter concerning which way Japan is heading. This is really a choice between peace and war, between right and wrong, between light and dark. So that's why we made a very strong representation to Japanese leaders visiting this shrine.

John Ray: So where from your point of view is the pure evil in Japan? Is it what you perceive as their militarism?

Ambassador Liu: I think that's very much so. We are very concerned about Japanese leaders' anti-peace rhetoric. As you know, Prime Minster Abe even refuses to recognize that Japan started this war of aggression. He even challenges the definition of aggression. The deputy prime minister even tries to, in his word, learn from Nazi Germany to amend the pacifist constitution. And they also play up the so-called 'China Threat' in order to create regional tensions to make excuse for Japanese military expansion. So we are very concerned about the spectre of militarism that Abe is trying to raise again. We found some similarities between today's Japan and Germany before the WWII. So we are very concerned about that.

John Ray: From the Japanese perspective, you might look at the buildup of Chinese military forces over the past 20 years and say here is a big power emerging in the region. We need to defend ourselves against this new superpower. You have been increasing defence spending by double digit numbers for the past 25 years.

Ambassador Liu: That's not right. We did see some increase in China's military spending. But if you compare China's per capita military expenditure with that of America, Britain, Japan, China is still the lowest. China is a large country. We are much bigger than Britain and Japan. We have 1.3 billion people. We have 22,000 km of land borders and 32,000 km of coastal lines. China is a large country to defend. And if you look at the military budget-to-GDP ratio, and its percentage in China's total fiscal expenditure, the figures are decreasing on year-on-year basis. In terms of military expenditure-to-GDP ratio, the US is 22 times of China. Even Britain is twice that of China. And on per capita terms, Japan's military spending is five times of China. And what is important is the nature of China's defence policy. Chinese defence policy is defensive in nature. You have never seen China occupy a single inch of other country's territory. As a matter of fact, in the past hundred years or so, China has been a victim of foreign aggression and occupation. But if you look at Japan, it is a completely different story.

Jonh Ray: When you look at it from a different perspective, you might see not Japan as the aggressor but China as the aggressor. Take for example the Diaoyu Islands, you've declared a sort of defensive zone over there. They belong, according to the international law, to Japan. Do they not? You're claiming them. So it looks as if it is China that has the territorial ambitions there.

Ambassador Liu:That is not a right impression. In fact, Diaoyu Dao has been China's territory since ancient times. It was not until China-Japan War about 120 years ago that Japan had seized it illegally. According to the Cairo Declaration reached by the Chinese, British and American leaders, Japan had to return all the territories it had seized illegally as a result of that war, including Taiwan and the surrounding islands. But after the Second World War, the Cold War ensued. The Americans tried to support Japan. Instead of returning Diaoyu Islands to China, they transferred the administrative power of the Diaoyu Islans to Japan. We never recognized that. We launched protests against this. But still, Americans do not recognize Japna's sovereignty over the islands. When it comes to sovereignty, they take a neutral position. Diaoyu Dao has always been a dispute between China and Japan. And we had proposed, before the events in past few years, to shelve the dispute. When Deng Xiaoping visited Japan, he was asked a question at a news conference about the future of Diaoyu Dao. He said we have a dispute with Japan over the Islands. We may shelve the dispute for the time being. Maybe the future generation would be wiser than us today to find a solution to this disputed territory.

John Ray: But at the moment, it looks like that China on the islands is not going to compromise, that it is your territory. And you should have it.

Ambassador Liu:The problem is it is the Japanese who have provoked all this. First of all, a group of right-wing forces in Japan tried to nationalize these islands. So the Japanese government wanted to take it over. This raised the tension over the disputed territory. We had to make a response. China in fact has been passive in making response to Japanese provocations. According to Chinese philosophy, we will never attack others. We are a very pacifist country. But we will make a counter-attack when we are attacked.

John Ray: If you watch this from the outside, it's quite alarming. I want to ask you where you think or where you fear all this is heading when people talk about potential flashpoints for war, they look at this dispute between China and Japan? Do you share that worry?

Ambassador Liu: We are concerned, I would say. First of all, I would stress that we want to have good relations with Japan. We want to live peacefully with them. In fact, when we normalized relations with Japan about 42 years ago, the leaders of the two countries all proclaimed that there would be no war for ever between China and Japan. We all know that you can not have a peaceful Asia and Pacific without good relations between China and Japan, such two important countries. But it's not really very much up to China when you have this right-wing forces and militarist forces working and getting momentum in Japan. So we are very concerned. That's why I made a comparison of Lord Voldemort and militarism in Japan. So the only way to maintain peace and stability, to ensure there will be no war, is to stop the militarism in Japan. That's why we call on Mr. Abe and his government to stop it before it's too late.

John Ray: At the end of the movie, Lord Voldemort is destroyed.

Ambassador Liu: Militarism should be destroyed in order to maintain peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.

John Ray: Chinese authorities have said, when they are talking about Japan re-arming, that you will not allow it to happen. What does that mean? Does that mean that you will take defensive military action to stop Japan?

Ambassador Liu: As I said, China will never provoke. China will only make counter-attack. We want to draw the attention, and the alert of the international community, so that's why I wrote this article. I want to share my concern with the British public. In Britain, we attach great importance not only to our relations, but also to how you see this. Britain has played an important role in the past and still has a role to play today in maintaining peace and stability not only in Europe but also in the world. So that's why I'm calling on China and Britain, not only as the victims of the Second World War, but also as victors of the Second World War to take on our common responsibility. We should work with the international community to ensure that post-war order will be maintained. Because this post-war order really has ensured peace and stability for the world for the past 70 years. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. I think we really have to celebrate it not only with some joy but also with some concerns about whether the history of the Second World War will be repeated. If the militarism in Japan is not to be stopped, we can not rule out the repeat of another world war. So that's why we are really concerned about this. We want to work it out in a very peaceful way, but sometimes you have to prepare for the worst. So the best way to do it is to resolve it with the efforts of the international community. So I'm very pleased that not only China has lodged strong protests, but also South Korea and America have expressed deep concern and disappointment. Some other countries have done the same. So we do hope that the international community will join force to stop the development of the militarism in Japan.

John Ray: Can I ask you a question that I asked you earlier on. We know that Chinese people suffered terribly from the invasion of the Japanese in the 1930s. Has that wound that was inflicted ever been forgiven? Has it ever healed? Or the Chinese people feel as strongly now, as hurt and as angry now as it did 80 years ago.

Ambassador Liu: I think you are right. The war really inflicted enormous wound and casualties on the Chinese people. It caused 35 million casualties, and direct or indirect economic losses of $600 billion. We want to see the wound healed, so that's why when China and Japan normalized relations, the Chinese Government and Chinese leaders decided that we were not going to seek war reparations from Japan. We believed it was the war criminals, it was the leaders of Japan who started the war should be held accountable, not the average Japanese people. So we do not want the young people of Japan today to bear the cost, to bear the responsibility of their fathers or grandfathers who made this crime. So we want to live peacefully with Japan. But it was always the Japanese leaders who always open this wound of hatred between China and Japan. In addition to visiting the war shrine, they tried to rewrite the history, refuse to show remorse of their aggressive past, and even tries to alter the text book. They do not want to teach the children about their aggressive past. So it's quite different if you compare Japan with Germany on how they did with their past. For example, you see German Chancellor Brandt kneeling down in front of the tomb of the Jews, and you see Mrs Merkel showing respect to those dead in Nazi concentration camps. But you have never seen the same political gesture, not even a word of apology to Chinese people from Japanese leaders. So how could you make sure Chinese people would forget this past? So it's very important that the attitude of Japanese leaders and Japanese government really makes a big difference. We do hope that they will change their course, show remorse and make apology not only to Chinese people, but also to Asian people, to all the peoples they have caused casualties and damages, and to start a new life, a new Japan. So I don't think the issue of Japanese war criminal has been thoroughly settled. Therefore, you see the spectre of militarism rising from time to time. So the international community really should be alert about this danger where Japan is heading.

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ITV is the second largest public broadcaster in the UK after the BBC. News at Ten is ITV's flagship news programme and one of the most watched evening news programmes in the UK with an audience of 3 million.

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