Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension

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NANJING, China — Strolling through China’s sprawling memorial to a 1937 massacre by Japanese troops, a 64-year-old retired teacher said the incident remains an open wound.

“Japan is a country without credibility. They pretend to be friendly, but they can’t be trusted,” Qi Houjie said as a frigid wind swept the austere plaza of the Nanking Massacre Memorial Hall.

Across the waters, Japanese visiting a Shinto shrine in Tokyo that enshrines 14 convicted war criminals among 2.5 million war dead say they’re tired of Chinese harping, underscoring a gradual hardening of attitudes toward their neighbor. China criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday for having a “wrong attitude to history” after he sent a traditional offering to Yasukuni Shrine at the start of a 3-day spring festival.

“Yasukuni Shrine is a damaging element to Japan’s relations with its neighbors,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. “It is a negative asset for Japan. If the Japanese leaders are willing to continue carrying this negative asset on their back, the negative asset will become increasingly heavier.”

Such statements don’t sit well with Ayumi Shiraishi, a 28-year-old hotel employee who decided to see Yasukuni on a recent trip to the Japanese capital. “The harsher they criticize, the more strongly I feel it’s not their business,” she said of the Chinese. “It’s a matter of the prime minister’s belief, as he has said, and there is nothing wrong with that.”

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