Editorial - China Can't Have It Both Ways

April 27th 2009

New York, NY, USA, 26 April 2009 (Editorial - The New York Times) - The Chinese government issued two statements last Thursday. Both were only briefly, and separately, noted in the press. They make for a curious contrast.

In one, China denounced Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso for making an offering to the Yasukuni shrine. This is the shrine that honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 top war criminals from World War II, when Japan committed terrible atrocities in China.

China was furious when the then-prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, visited Yasukuni in 2005, and the next two prime ministers stayed clear.

But Mr. Aso, a pugnacious nationalist, revived the controversy on Tuesday by offering the Shinto shrine a potted plant. Mr. Aso's spokesmen insisted that this was not the same as a visit, and in any case would not affect his scheduled visit to China next week.

China was furious, telling the Japanese that 'the question of history is highly sensitive.'

In the other statement, China demanded that the United States cancel a visit by the Dalai Lama (he arrived on Friday for a two-week tour). The Buddhist religious leader, a recipient of the Nobel peace prize who is respected around the world, says he is seeking only autonomy for his homeland, Tibet. China vilifies him as a separatist and regularly lambastes countries and leaders who receive him.

'We oppose the Dalai Lama going to any country to engage in splittist activities under any pretext,' said Jiang Yu, the same Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who had earlier found history to be so sensitive.

Mr. Aso's offering to Yasukuni was blatantly provocative and offensive, even if all he offered was a potted sakaki evergreen, and his explanation


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