President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday urged the Japanese government to confront its behavior during World War II responsibly, saying school textbooks should honestly depict the facts of history.
"There is only one set of historical facts, and the objective facts should not be distorted or altered," Chen said as he received a delegation of senior Japanese education officials and parliamentarians at the Presidential Office.
"A country [which launches a war] should take complete responsibility to all the people of the world and to history," Chen told his Japanese guests. "There is no excuse to justify or legitimize the launching of a war because war cannot be rationalized or tolerated."
The president's remarks constituted the Taiwan government's first clear reaction to recent events concerning World War II in Japan, such as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni shrine for Japan's war dead and the publication of middle school history textbooks that seem to justify Japan's aggression.
Chinese, Korean and other Asian victims of Japanese aggression during World War II have condemned the Japanese government for seeking to glorify its militarist past.
Until now, Taiwan's response has been low-key, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply saying that "Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni shrine hurt the feelings of Japan's neighbors," and stopped short of expressing any protest or regret. Some opposition politicians and pro-unification scholars in Taiwan had earlier criticized Chen's administration for not commenting on the issue.
During yesterday's reception, Chen also stressed that any accounts, records and comments about historical events should not violate "the universally accepted standard of objectivity."
"A country [which starts a war] must courageously face its past behavior, as well as the feelings of the people who fell victim to its aggression and its neighboring countries," Chen said.
Ignoring the strong protests of other Asian countries, Japan's government has refused to revise the textbooks after approving their use in junior high schools.
"The recent protests [by other Asian countries] should not be interpreted as overreactions," Chen said.
The president also referred to the cross-strait situation, saying that Taiwan would do its best to protect its sovereignty and territory but would not resort to starting a war for that purpose.
"We will not launch an invasion of another country," the president said, "and there is no country which can legitimize an excuse to invade our country."
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