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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming talks to Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight

On 8 January 2014, H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming had a live interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC 2 Newsnight programme. He elaborated on China's solemn stands on Abe's visit to the Yakusuni Shrine and the Diaoyu Islands. The transcript of the interview goes as follows:

Jeremy Paxman: How are you? Thank you very much for coming in.

Ambassador: Fine. Jeremy, nice to see you again.

Jeremy Paxman: Nice to see you. How serious do you think this is?

Ambassador: Very serious. This is a very serious issue. Japanese prime minister's visit to the Yakusuni Shrine, in our view, is not a small matter. It concerns how Japanese face up to their history of aggression. I would quote Winston Churchill's words, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it". So we are concerned that if they do not face up to their disgraceful record of aggression, what will happen for the future?

Jeremy Paxman: You raised the question of this visit to the Shrine. There have been over 60 prime ministerial visits to that Shrine since the Second World War, and to 20-something of them the Chinese raised no objection at all?

Ambassador: That was not right. I know this was the Japanese Ambassador's figure. You know it was not until 1978 that the 14 Class A war criminals had been moved in. And then in 1985, the Japanese prime minister, together with the whole cabinet, visited the shrine. We lodged a strong protest. So since then, we made countless protests against it.

Jeremy Paxman: But let's look at these islands. Why have you suddenly asserted control of the air, for example, above them. Why have you suddenly done that?

Ambassador: That was a good question. Why this matter cropped up so suddenly? It has been very peaceful for the past 40 years. First of all, I would say these islands have been part of the Chinese territory since ancient times. It was in 1895 when China lost the war with Japan that they had been seized illegally. But according to the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, all the territories seized illegally by Japan should be returned to China. That is international document agreed by Britain, British leader, American leader and Chinese leader.

Jeremy Paxman: Sorry, I am not familiar with the Cairo Declaration. When was that?

Ambassador: 1943.

Jeremy Paxman: Right. Now it has nothing to do, you say then, with natural resources which may be connected with these islands or may be available from these islands?

Ambassador: It is about sovereignty. It is about territorial integrity. Let me finish about why it came up. When we normalized relations in 1972, both leaders agreed that there was a dispute over the islands. We should shelve the difference. Deng Xiaoping, in 1978 when he visited Japan, was asked this question about Diaoyu Islands. And he said 'we have a dispute with Japan, but I think we can shelve it for the time being. The future generation will be wiser than us.' So we agreed to shelve it. But Japanese want to change the status quo. In the past few years, you know what did they do? They tried to "nationalize" these islands. Their government wanted to "purchase" these islands.

Jeremy Paxman: How far are you prepared to take this dispute?

Ambassador: How far? First of all, they have to face up to the fact that we have a dispute over the islands. They even refuse to recognize there is a dispute between the two countries over the islands.

Jeremy Paxman: Implicitly, the Japanese ambassador over there a second or two ago was talking about the need for dialogue. That is an implicit recognition that there is a disagreement over it.

Ambassador: In fact, it was Abe, the Japanese prime minister, who shut the door of dialogue between China and Japan because he overturned the fundamental foundation of the two countries. How would you expect China would agree to talk to him when he refuses to repent on the war crimes the Japanese did to the Chinese people. This is not only a case for China. Korean president also refused to meet Abe because of his behaviour on history issue.

Jeremy Paxman: Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

Ambassador: Thank you, Jeremy.

* * *

Newsnight is a weekday BBC 2 current affairs programme which specialises in analysis and often robust cross-examination. Jeremy Paxman, a well-known British journalist and commentator, has been its main presenter for over two decades.

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