Aggressors' remorse: Tatsuya Suko

Added On September 3, 2014

Wednesday is Victory Day of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
China's anti-Japanese war in the 1930s and 1940s was an important part of the World Anti-Fascist War.
More than 35 million Chinese were either killed or injured during the eight-year conflict, which ended in September 1945 after Japan's official surrender.
Ahead of this year's commemorations, we have spoken to Japanese prisoners of war who were later released by the Chinese government, who expressed remorse for what they, and others had done in China seven decades ago.
Today we meet Tatsuya Suko, who served with the invading Japanese army for years before being held captive by the former Soviet Union and then repatriated to China.
Tatsuya Suko was one of hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops that invaded China in the 1940s.
He was deployed with the 39th Division of the Japanese army, which was stationed across much of central China since its establishment in 1939.
The infantry division was engaged in major warfare in the provinces of Henan, Hubei and Hunan, before moving northeast to Manchuria to confront Soviet troops.
One key battleground, Hunan, was known as China's "granary" during the eight-year war against Japanese aggression, which officially began in 1937.
Its capital city, Changsha, witnessed four large-scale battles between the Chinese and Japanese troops within five years.
The third one, in 1942, was joined by the 39th infantry division of Japan -- which claimed the lives of tens of thousands on the Chinese side.
During the four years of service with the invading army, Suko saw the brutality and callousness of the aggressors, and the horror and trauma, the war had brought to locals.
SOUNDBITE: TATSUYA SUKO, Soldier, 39th Division of Japanese Army, WWII
"All local residents ran away. No one stayed behind. Anyone who stayed behind could be killed or interrogated as a spy. So the residents ran away when they saw us. They ran to the mountains, and no one stayed there. Only livestock were left behind, like pigs or cattle. We killed all the livestock and ate the meat."
In August 1945, Suko and hundreds of thousands of other Japanese soldiers surrendered to the Soviet army.
After a five-year detention in the former Soviet Union, some of these prisoners of war were repatriated to China -- Suko being one of them.
In 1956, more than 1,000 of these former Japanese servicemen were exempted from prosecution and released, as authorities in China deemed their offenses minor during the war.
Suko was among the first group of soldiers to leave jail, freed in June that year.
Now... nearly 60 years on, the 93-year-old says it was and will be ill-advised to go to war with China, a country that lies so close to Japan.
SOUNDBITE: TATSUYA SUKO, Soldier, 39th Division of Japanese Army, WWII
"We must not wage war against China! Seriously, as neighboring countries, we should help each other. I don't think the Chinese would attack Japan, or turn Japan into their colony. So, I am very happy that nowadays, I can visit China, even just me alone, without being worried about my own safety.
September 3 was designated as Victory Day decades ago by the Chinese government.

This year it's the first time that it's officially observed, after its legalization by China's top legislature in February.