Ahead of Obama’s historic visit to pay respect to the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said that the massacre of civilians in Nanjing by invading Japanese forces was more worthy of reflection.
While surrounded by reporters in Nanjing, Wang Yi said, “Hiroshima is worthy of attention. But even more so Nanjing should not be forgotten. Victims deserve sympathy, but perpetrators should never shirk their responsibility.”
China says 300,000 people died in a six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction after the Japanese military entered Nanjing in 1937, although a post war tribunal put the victims at about half this number.
The comments were made just a day after China Daily published an editorial arguing that the bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified.
In the article titled “Atomic bombings of Japan were of its own making,” it said that present-day Japanese officials were trying to portray Japan as the victim of World War II rather than one of its major perpetrators.
The People’s Daily joined in the following day, saying that Japan had “disregarded the feelings of Asian countries, manipulated historical facts, abandoned peaceful promises, and created threats to the regional security situation.”
The legacy of World War II is a highly contentious issue which continues to complicate Sino-Japanese relations. Last October a decision by the UN to add documents dealing with the Nanjing Massacre to its Memory of the World program was welcomed by China, but led Japan to threaten cutting off its UNESCO funding.