China angered by Japan's UN bid for kamikaze pilot letters

BEIJING - China condemned on Monday plans by a Japanese city to ask the UN world heritage organisation to register letters by World War Two kamikaze suicide pilots alongside documents that include the diaries of Anne Frank and the Magna Carta.

The southern Japanese city of Minami Kyushu had last week asked UNESCO to register the wills and farewell letters of the pilots who had carried out attacks on allied ships to highlight the importance of world peace.

The city hosted an airfield from which hundreds of pilots launched suicide missions in 1945, the final year of the war.

China's Foreign Ministry, however, said kamikaze pilots deserved no such recognition. "The design behind the so-called application for the kamikaze pilots is very clear, which is to try and beautify the Japanese militarist history of invasion," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"This intention is diametrically opposed to UNESCO's objective of maintaining world peace, and must be strongly condemned and resolutely opposed by the international community," Hua added.

China's ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what Beijing sees as Tokyo's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.

A row over a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea has further deteriorated relations. Ships from both countries frequently shadow each other around the islets, raising fears of a clash.

Ties have also been strained by China's creation of an air defence identification zone over the East China Sea and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine honouring war criminals among Japan's war dead.