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Map stamps claim over islands
2012-10-27 21:37

Even a French map shows Diaoyu Islands belong to China, so it's time Japan stopped its farce and repented its war crimes

Last weekend, I was strolling down Galerie Bortier Street in Brussels when I made an interesting discovery in a bookstore called Schwilden. It was a map drawn by a French colonel, Pierre Lapie, and his son in 1832. On the map, the Diaoyu Islands were clearly marked as "Diaoyu Isles", a term used by Chinese people to refer to the islands during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

If you think this is just a coincidence, you should take a closer look at history. By the early 1400s, China had discovered the Diaoyu Islands and placed them under its jurisdiction, as affiliates of Taiwan. Many Chinese and foreign books and maps prove the Diaoyu Islands have belonged to China since ancient times. Even a map in Japan's earliest book that mentions the islands, the Illustrated Outline of the Three Countries written in 1785, depicts the Diaoyu Islands in the same color as the Chinese mainland, indicating that the islands were part of China and were seized by the Japanese later.

But now Japan claims sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands, denying even a dispute on the issue, which was not the case even when diplomatic relations between China and Japan were normalized in 1972. In 1978, China and Japan signed the treaty of peace and friendship, and leaders of both countries agreed to shelve the issue for future settlement. Without such understanding and agreement, Sino-Japanese ties would not have progressed so much in the past four decades.

History's lessons should be learned to build the future. And history tells us that Japan invaded China several times. In 1895, Japan started the Sino-Japanese War and seized the Diaoyu Islands from China. During World War I, it invaded and occupied Shandong province. In 1931, it invaded Northeast China. And in 1937, it launched an all-out war of aggression on China, massacring 35 million Chinese and causing untold sufferings to people not only in China but also other Asian countries.

Even after 67 years, Japanese right-wing forces have not admitted, let alone repented, their World War II crimes. Instead, they have repeatedly stirred up trouble on historical and territorial issues to the indignation of people in China and other Asian countries.

On Sept 11 this year, the Japanese government "purchased" the Diaoyu Islands it calls Senkakus to "nationalize" them. On Oct 17, the chief of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, followed by several Japanese cabinet ministers and a group of Japanese lawmakers, visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Hideki Tojo and 13 other "class A" World War II criminals who were convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

In stark contrast to Japan, Germany has apologized for its war crimes. Imagine how people in Europe will feel if a European country tries to deny history and the outcome of World War II, and its politicians pay tribute to Hitler and his key accomplices? This is exactly what Japan has been doing.

There is no doubt that Japan's unilateral and provocative actions are responsible for escalating tensions over the Diaoyu Islands issue.

China, as a peace-loving country, has always been committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region and beyond. It has been working with European Union countries as well as others across the world to overcome the challenges of the EU sovereign debt crisis and the global financial crisis. So it is justifiable for China to take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity.

The Chinese had joined European and American allies in the two world wars. China and Belgium both have suffered the horrors of the wars. The two peoples helped each other during the wars and forged a friendship. During World War I, more than 140,000 Chinese laborers were working in Europe, of which about 50,000 were believed to be in Ieper and its surrounding areas.

The tombs of 1,874 Chinese laborers are spread over 69 cemeteries in Belgium and Northern France. In Flanders Fields Museum of Ieper held a Special Exhibition on Chinese Labor Corps on April 23, 2010, to honor the Chinese laborers for the role they played in restoring peace and rebuilding war-ravaged nations.

The story of Qian Xiuling, a Chinese woman who was living in Belgium during World War II, is the stuff of legends. When German troops invaded Belgium, the courageous Qian managed to save the lives of 96 Belgian hostages in Ecaussinnes city. Residents of Ecaussinnes have even named a downtown street in her honor "Rue Perlinghi" (Perlinghi is the French name of Qian). The city mayor said: "Had father not been rescued by Qian, I would never have come to this world. In that sense, I am a grandson of Qian. The Chinese people are proud of her, and the Belgian people are grateful to her." Back in China, people remember the Europeans and Americans who joined their fight against Japanese aggressors and rescued Chinese lives during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937-38, which saw about 300,000 unarmed Chinese slaughtered by Japanese soldiers.

Fully aware of war sufferings, China is committed to resolving territorial and maritime disputes, including the Diaoyu Islands issue, through friendly negotiations with its neighbors. It is hoped that Japan faces up to history and reality, fully understands the situation, corrects its wrongdoings and returns to the right track to resolve the Diaoyu Islands issue through negotiations.

The author is China's ambassador to Belgium.

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