Japan's WWII sinking of ship illegal: Australia PM

Australia's military secretly warned Rudd to stay silent about Japanese involvement in the torpedoing of the Centaur to protect military and trade ties, a newspaper report said.

Japan's WWII sinking of ship illegal: Australia PM

A Japanese torpedo attack on an Australian hospital ship in World War II was illegal and violated fundamental humanitarian principles, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Thursday.

But while condemning the 1943 sinking of the Centaur with the loss of 268 lives, Rudd stressed the Japan of today was "vastly different" and that Australia must deepen ties with its key trading partner.

But Australia's military secretly warned Rudd to stay silent about Japanese involvement in the torpedoing of the Centaur to protect military and trade ties, a newspaper report said.

"The action to sink the Centaur by the Japanese navy at the time was, in our view, a complete breach of international law," Rudd told reporters in Adelaide.

"It was also a complete violation of the most basic international and humanitarian conventions. I would also say these were the actions of the war," he said. The attack on the Centaur, which was marked as a hospital ship with Red Cross symbols, killed 268 people. Australia's wartime prime minister John Curtin said the attack had violated "all the principles of common humanity".

A spokesman for Japan's foreign ministry could not comment on Japan's formal stance on the issue, or on the Australian report.

"If the issue is brought about by the Australian government, of course we would consider what to do as a response," said Hidenobu Sobashima, deputy press secretary at the Foreign Ministry.

Rudd said the matter had been put to rest with Tokyo in the 1950s and Japan was now a very different country with which Australia must continued to grow security and trade ties.

A secret Defence Department report in the Australian newspaper on Thursday said the military wanted to avoid a public debate over whether the sinking of the Centaur was legal.

"A public debate about the legality of Japan's actions could damage our improving bilateral defence relations with Japan," the report by a senior defence official said.

Rudd's government has been working hard to expand security ties with Japan, but a group of Japanese government lawmakers this week questioned plans to sign a defence agreement with Australia because of Canberra's anti-whaling stance.

The agreement would allow military personnel from both countries to share supplies and logistical capabilities when on exercise together.


Agencies

Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2010, 16:58
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