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Last updated: July 9, 2014 7:44 am
Japan has hit out at China over a newspaper story that said Tokyo wanted another war and included a map showing mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the latest ratcheting up of tensions between the two countries.
The Chongqing Youth Daily, which serves the western metropolis, ran a map on July 3 titled “Japan wants a war again” in English and Chinese. It included mushroom clouds over the western Japanese cities that remain the only places to have been hit by an atomic bomb. The map appears to have been removed online since publication.
“It is truly thoughtless to depict a mushroom cloud,” Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday. “As the foreign minister of the only country to suffer a nuclear attack and as a politician from Hiroshima, I cannot tolerate it.”
The Japanese foreign ministry on Wednesday said that Tokyo had made a protest with the Chongqing newspaper.
“We would like to refrain from saying the details of the conversation but the editor-in-chief said that the Chongqing Youth Daily itself decided to publish the map in the newspaper,” the ministry said.
The incident marks the latest deterioration in relations between the countries whose ties have been severely strained since a bitter row over the Senkaku Islands – a chain in the East China Sea that Japan controls but China claims and calls the Diaoyu – broke out in late 2012.
Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, and Xi Jinping, Chinese president, have yet to visit each other’s countries in spite of having both been in office for more than a year.
Tensions started to ease late last year but rose again after December, when Mr Abe visited Yasukuni, a controversial shrine to Japan’s war dead, including a handful of convicted war criminals.
During a visit to Australia on Tuesday, Mr Abe said Japan’s “fundamental position” was to improve relations with China, saying that, “the door to China is open from the Japanese side and we hope that the Chinese side take the same posture”.
March 5 2014: The stand-off over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, consumer boycotts and nationalist rhetoric have all increased the pressure on the relationship between Japan and China. The FT’s bureaux chiefs from the two countries, Jamil Anderlini and Jonathan Soble, talk to David Pilling, the FT’s Asia editor, about the possibility that the war of words could escalate into something more serious.
His comments came a day after Mr Xi attacked Japan for failing to face up to its wartime past. Speaking on the 77th anniversary of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which sparked the Japanese invasion of China, the Chinese president said: “Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify the history of aggression will never be tolerated by Chinese people and people of all other countries.”
Speaking in Beijing at a press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, Chinese premier Li Keqiang also hit out at Japan, saying peace required countries to learn lessons of history. China likes to compare Japan to Germany, which is seen to have shown full contrition over Hitler and the Nazis.
The comments by the Chinese leaders come on the heels of a decision by Japan to reinterpret its constitution to allow Japanese self-defence forces to defend allies under attack. While the change brings Japan closer into line with other countries, it has been vilified in China and South Korea because of its wartime history.
China also reacted angrily last month when Mr Abe said at a defence forum in Singapore that Japan was willing to help countries in Asia that were facing threats from China, particularly in the South China Sea where China and Vietnam are mired in a dangerous spat over a disputed group of islands called the Paracels.
Additional reporting by Julie Zhu
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