Japan-China battle comes to Ottawa: Citizen article sparks diplomatic row over Second World War atrocities

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The cold war between the Japanese and Chinese governments has erupted in Ottawa, with their embassies exchanging accusations over the way each is interpreting history.

Bilateral relations have been souring over the past few months over the Japanese textbooks' treatment of that country's involvement in the Second World War, a tension compounded by the fight over oil drilling along disputed sea borders.

Now, with the 60th anniversary of Victory Japan Day on Monday, the politics of memory are again coming into play, specifically regarding the Japanese invasion and massacre of Nanjing, then the capital of China, during the war.

An article under the headline "The Republic of Amnesia," written by Andrew Cohen and published in the June 28 Citizen, provoked a letter from the Japanese Embassy, defending Japan's historical treatment of wartime atrocities and reiterating the country's formal apology.

In his letter to the Citizen on July 27, Masaya Fujiwara, a minister at the Japanese Embassy, wrote, "Japan squarely faces the facts of history," and reiterated what Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in April during his speech at the Asian-African Summit.

"Japan, through colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. With feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind, Japan has maintained ... its principle of resolving all matters by peaceful means, without recourse to use of force."

This provoked a response from the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, which said Japan's actions negate the apology.

Zuo Wenxing, the press officer for the Embassy of China in Ottawa, wrote that Mr. Fujiwara's assertion that Japan has faced up to its past is "far from convincing," and that his letter "casts further doubts about Japan's attitude to towards its past."

"Just face up to history," said Ms. Wenxing. "They have apologized, yes, but it's not translating into action."

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