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Diary shows Hirohito didn't want war in China|
Emperor Hirohito, in whose name Japanese soldiers fought in World War Two, was reluctant to start a war with China in 1937 and had believed in stopping it earlier, media reported on Friday, citing a diary by his former chamberlain.
The revelation comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe angered Asian neighbors with controversial remarks about Japan's wartime actions, and as Tokyo and Beijing prepare for an expected April visit to Japan by Chinese Premier 888.
According to the diary by Kuraji Ogura, the late Hirohito also said Japan had underestimated China's military strength, adding that experts in the Imperial Army had failed to correctly forecast the war in China.
"Japan underestimated China. It is most wise to end the war quickly and seek to build up our national strength for the next ten years," the diary quotes Hirohito as saying in January 1941, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Japan and China entered full-scale war following the Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937.
In December 1942, a year after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Hirohito is quoted as saying that the timing for ending a war is important and that war should be fought to the best of one's ability.
"One you start (a war), it cannot easily be stopped in the middle ... What's important is when to end the war," the diary quotes him as saying.
"One should be cautious in starting a war, but once begun, it should be carried out thoroughly."
Hirohito's remarks may provide insight into the monarch's war responsibility, which academics say has never been fully pursued in Japan largely due to a decision by U.S. Occupation authorities to keep him on the throne and turn the emperor into a symbol of a newly democratic Japan.
Last July, a memo by another courtier said that Hirohito had stopped visiting a Tokyo shrine for Japan's war dead because he was displeased by the shrine's decision to honor wartime leaders convicted as war criminals.
Wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo and 13 other leaders convicted as "Class A" war criminals by an Allied tribunal in 1948 were elevated to the status of gods in 1978 by the Yasukuni Shrine, which is why Beijing and Seoul consider the shrine a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made annual visits to Yasukuni, turning Tokyo's ties with the two countries icy.
While relations are on the mend after Abe visited the two countries last October, he has recently angered the neighbors with remarks that appeared to question the state's role in forcing women to work in military brothels during World War Two.