Invasion. Genocide. An utter lack of remorse. and why there could be a terrifying new war between Japan and China

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!!! Engineering Evil Statement: I am only posting articles that bring attention to the seriousness of this escalation. Which this crisis is currently being played down by most western diplomats.  They are not my views…

By Max Hastings

PUBLISHED:19:02 EST, 19  September 2012| UPDATED:19:02 EST, 19 September 2012

A few years ago, nobody in Asia gave much  thought to the Senkaku islands. They form a cluster of eight pimples in the East  China Sea, mid-way between Taiwan and Japanese Okinawa, devoid of people,  culture and — by all accounts — beauty.

Yet suddenly, they have become the focus of a  dispute between China and Japan which is growing so bitter that doomsters fear  Beijing might even go to war over them.

The dispute is one of a dozen involving  islands off the Asian mainland — some claimed by Vietnam, others by South Korea,  others again by the Philippines — in which China is wielding a big  stick.

Disputed: China is challenging Japan's claim to the Senkaku Islands in the East China seaDisputed: China is challenging Japan’s claim to the  Senkaku Islands in the East China sea


In some cases, it covets fish stocks around  the rocks, in others there is oil under the sea; elsewhere, Beijing merely wants  to extend its territorial waters.

What alarms the United States, as well as the  regional powers, is the ferocity with which China is pursuing its claims.

The row about the Senkakus escalated when the  Tokyo government recently purchased them from their owner, a Japanese  businessman. In the past week, the ownership of the islands has provoked  demonstrations in a dozen Chinese cities, outbreaks of violence and vandalism  against Japanese targets which have prompted some of its industrial giants — Nissan, Honda, Canon, Panasonic — to shut down their plants in that  country.

Provocative: Chinese fishing boats set off to fish near the disputed islands, known in Chinese as DiaoyuProvocative: Chinese fishing boats set off to fish near  the disputed islands, known in Chinese as Diaoyu

Sabre-rattling: China has sent military vessels to the islandsSabre-rattling: China has sent military vessels to the  islands

Some Japanese residents of China have shut  themselves in their homes for safety. They feel unable to rely on the Chinese  police for protection, because it is impossible for sustained vandalism to  happen without official acquiescence. Meanwhile, the Chinese government  continues to issue tough statements about the islands, which it calls the  Diaoyus.

Washington, as well as Tokyo, is alarmed by  the spectacle of China playing rough.

Nobody forgets that in the past, the Chinese  have sometimes used force to get their way in border disputes: they occupied  Tibet and fought a bitter war with Vietnam. Fears persist about China’s  obsessive determination to reunite the mainland with offshore Taiwan, left in  the old Chinese government’s hands after the 1949 communist  revolution.

Resentment: Chinese protesters march with anti-Japanese bannersResentment: Chinese protesters march with anti-Japanese  banners

The quarrel over the Senkakus has reawakened  atavistic Chinese hostility and resentment towards Japan, which goes back more  than a century.

In 1894, the Japanese seized and colonised  the Korean peninsula — a staging post towards an occupation of China — and sank  a Chinese fleet. China’s Qing regime had to sign a humiliating peace  surrendering part of Manchuria — effectively north-east China — and the  Pescadore islands, off modern Taiwan.

Then, on September 18, 1931, the Japanese  staged a faked attack on their own railway in their sector of Manchuria, blamed  the Chinese, and used the incident as a pretext to overrun all of that region.  (That date lives in infamy in China — which is why violent demonstrations took  place in the country this week.)

No surrender: Protesters hold up Japan's national flags at an anti-China rallyNo surrender: Protesters hold up Japan’s national flags  at an anti-China rally

The Japanese renamed the area Manchukuo, and  installed the emperor Pu Yi as their puppet ruler.

In the decade that followed, they extended  their empire with a ruthlessness that shocked the world. In 1932, after a  Chinese mob in Shanghai attacked five Japanese monks in the city, the Japanese  air force took reprisals by bombing the entire city, killing thousands of  civilians.

In 1937, Japanese army officers manufactured  a new incident at the ancient Marco Polo bridge outside the northern Chinese  city of Tientsin — in which the Japanese had a garrison under the terms of a  treaty. Claiming that their troops had been fired on by Chinese soldiers, they  launched a full-scale invasion of China. What happened thereafter has never been  forgotten or forgiven — not least because today’s Japanese are reluctant to  admit past war crimes.

Having fought their way through Shanghai,  sacking and killing, they embarked on a campaign which showed the world the  nature of Japanese militarism.

Tokyo’s soldiers marched on the Chinese  Nationalist capital, Nanking, killing and burning everything in their path in  the spirit of ‘Bushido’ — the ‘Code of the Warrior’. Their route led them  through Suchow, one of the oldest cities in China, famous for its silk  embroideries, palaces and temples set beside the Tai Hu lake.

On November 19 in heavy rain, Japanese troops  overran Suchow, ‘the Venice of China’, then spent days sacking the city.  Thousands of women were seized to be raped by the conquerors, and most of the  rest of the population fled.

The rape of Nanking: Chinese dead litter the street after Japanese forces stormed the city in 1937The rape of Nanking: Chinese dead litter the street  after Japanese forces stormed the city in 1937

Prince Asaka Yashuhiko, uncle of the Japanese  emperor Hirohito, took personal command of the 50,000-strong army. His men went  on to storm Nanking, overcoming a much larger Chinese garrison. Then an order  was issued systematically to kill thousands of Chinese prisoners, whom the  conquerors despised for accepting defeat, and whom they had no means to  feed.

A Japanese soldier named Azuma wrote: ‘They  all walked in droves, like ants crawling on the ground . . . a herd of ignorant  sheep . . . whispering to each other. It felt quite foolish to think that we had  been fighting to the death against these ignorant slaves, some were even  12-year-old boys’.

On the evening of December 17, 1939, the  Japanese herded thousands of prisoners, their hands bound, to the bank of the  Yangtze river. There, abruptly, Japanese machine-gunners opened fire. Within  minutes, amidst frenzied screams of excitement from the killers, and of terror  and agony from their victims, hundreds of Chinese were thrashing wounded or  dying beside the river.

Massacre: Japanese soldiers bayonet Chinese prisoners in NankingMassacre: Japanese soldiers bayonet Chinese prisoners in  Nanking

Merciless: A Japanese soldier beheads a Chinese prisonerMerciless: A Japanese soldier beheads a Chinese  prisoner

The Japanese conducted their slaughters with  refinements of cruelty that appalled the world, which soon learned of them. In  Nanking, having killed the military prisoners, they turned on the civilian  population.

Corpses were left in heaps outside the city  walls; the river ran red with blood. Soldiers not only bayoneted thousands of  victims, but proudly sent home photographs of themselves with their  victims.

Imai Mastake, a Japanese correspondent,  wrote: ‘On Hsiakwan wharves, there was the dark silhouette of a mountain made of  dead bodies. About 50 to 100 people were toiling there, dragging bodies . . .  into the Yangtze. The bodies dripped blood, some of them still alive and moaning  weakly, their limbs twitching.

Code of the warrior: Japanese officers celebrate in Suchow after their troops had occupied the cityCode of the warrior: Japanese officers celebrate in  Suchow after their troops had occupied the city

‘The labourers were working in total silence,  as in a pantomime. After a while, the coolies had done their job of dragging  corpses, and the soldiers lined them up along the river. Rat-tat-tat machine-gun  fire could be heard. The coolies fell backwards into the river and were  swallowed by the raging currents. The pantomime was over. A Japanese officer  . . . estimated that 20,000 persons had been executed.’

Another correspondent, Yukio Omata, watched  Chinese prisoners meeting their fate at the killing ground of Hsiakwan. ‘Those  in the first row were beheaded, those in the second row were forced to dump the  severed bodies into the river before they themselves were beheaded. The killing  went on non-stop, from morning until night.’

Westerners know all about Japanese atrocities  towards our own soldiers and civilians in World War II, but sometimes forget  that 15 million Chinese died during Japan’s campaigns in their country between  1937 and 1945. Indeed, some Chinese historians claim the total was up to 50  million.

Selective: Japan's twentieth-century history centres around the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (pictured) rather than the atrocities of the Sino-Japanese WarSelective: Japan’s twentieth-century history centres  around the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (pictured) rather than  the atrocities of the Sino-Japanese War


No matter what is the true number, the  Japanese behaved unspeakably towards the people of China, and have never shown  much penitence. While modern Germans are acutely conscious of the crimes of  Hitler, most modern Japanese are oblivious to the crimes of their own  forebears.

Some of their apologists claim Japan has said  sorry for its role in World War II. But a deafening silence persists in Japan’s  schools and universities on the subject, and there are yawning gaps in their  textbooks.

Every Japanese is taught that their country  was the victim of the first atomic bombs. Few know their grandfathers enjoyed  nothing more than chopping off a few Chinese heads. As recently as 2008, the  commander of the Japanese air force, General Toshio Tamogami, published an essay  suggesting that Japan had done nothing to be ashamed of in the war. Tamogami  complained bitterly: ‘Even now, there are many people who think that our  country’s aggression caused unbearable suffering to the countries of  Asia.’

Not so, said the general: ‘We need to realise  that many Asian countries take a positive view of the Greater East Asia War. It  is certainly a false accusation that our country was an aggressor nation.’ Tamogami said that Japan was entitled  by treaty to act as it did in China, and claimed that Korea, during its half  century as a Japanese colony, was ‘prosperous and safe’. He rejected the  verdicts of the Allied tribunals which convicted Japan’s war criminals in 1945  for their barbaric treatment of enemy troops, including Britons.

To be fair, the Tokyo government sacked the  general following furious protests from Beijing. But it remains amazing that one  of Japan’s most senior commanders could make such claims in the 21st  century.

But Tamogami wrote what many Japanese  nationalists think, including some academic historians.

Not only the Chinese government, but also  ordinary people, are enraged when such things are said in Japan, and when  Japanese courts reject lawsuits from Chinese former sex-slaves and forced  labourers.

Few Japanese, too, recognise the enormity of  the atrocities committed by the wartime Japanese Army’s biological warfare  group, Unit 731, for which no one was ever punished. Under its aegis, thousands  of men, women and children — including foreign prisoners — were killed in  gruesome experiments designed to test the limits of the human  body.

Unsurprisingly, there is real popular Chinese  bitterness towards Japan, and it explodes into the open when the Beijing  government highlights such a quarrel as that about the Senkaku  islands.

Whatever are China’s motives, its behaviour  shows a growing willingness to intimidate and bully its neighbours. Nobody is  sure just how far Beijing will press its claims in the East China Sea — perhaps  including China’s rulers themselves.

Their handling of international relations is  often clumsy and brutal. They are still groping, as they explore how best to  exploit their ever-growing power and wealth.

But all this makes China a dangerous nation.  Its neighbours think so: they are clamouring for closer defence ties with the  United States. Japan is installing new U.S. anti-missile radar systems, which  means that the Americans may yet find themselves drawn into the growing  dispute.

China has gone to war in the past to make  good its claims to territory. It is possible that it will do so again.

The Senkakus scarcely feature on a  large-scale map. Yet one day they, or one of the other disputed island groups in  the troubled waters off China, could precipitate a breakdown of global peace — a  crisis that would have fearful implications for us all

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