BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese state-run media offered Tokyo heavily qualified congratulations Monday for winning the right to host the 2020 Olympics, saying the event's success would depend on Japan recognising its World War II aggression.
"Japan should learn how to behave," the Global Times said in an editorial that focused mostly on Beijing's longstanding diplomatic rivalry with Tokyo.
The paper lamented Japan's "lousy job in reflecting its misdeeds in World War II", specifically pointing to visits by senior figures to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where the country's war dead are enshrined including 14 Class A war criminals.
If visits continued, the editorial said, the world would reconsider whether "a country which has been paying high tribute to brutal war criminals for years is qualified to host such an event that advocates peace and harmony".
The paper's news story on the 2020 decision said analysts were urging Japan "to adjust its attitude on history to reflect its appreciation for peace as implied in the Olympic Spirit".
The editorial appeared in both the newspaper's Chinese and English editions and added: "The Olympics will produce some pressure for Japan to realise the importance of self-restraint."
Beijing and Tokyo are at loggerheads over disputed territory in the East China Sea administered by Tokyo, which calls them the Senkaku islands, but claimed by Beijing, which knows them as the Diaoyus.
China's foreign ministry side-stepped questions at a regular press briefing Monday on whether it would congratulate Tokyo on its winning bid.
"You can ask the Chinese Olympic Committee this question," said spokesman Hong Lei.
The ministry later quoted Hong on its website as saying the Chinese Olympic Committee had congratulated Tokyo, without giving further details.
Washington had earlier issued a statement congratulating "the city of Tokyo, and our close ally Japan" following the decision.
Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have plunged in the last year, largely because of the ongoing territorial row, but their relationship remains heavily coloured by Japan's brutal occupation of China before and during World War II.
Beijing regularly accuses Tokyo of failing to atone for its imperialist past, while Japan says its neighbours use history as a diplomatic stick to beat it with.
Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Buenos Aires chose the Japanese capital over Istanbul after Madrid was eliminated, sparking celebrations in Tokyo.
The city previously hosted the Games in 1964.