China Condemns Japan PM’s Visit To War Shrine
The shrine is seen as the repository of the souls of Japan’s war dead, including high-level officials executed for war crimes.
3:03pm UK, Thursday 26 December 2013
Japan’s nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has paid an inflammatory visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine.
China immediately condemned the move as glorification of Japan’s past “militaristic aggression” and warned Tokyo must “bear the consequences”.
Mr Abe described his visit, which comes days after he caused consternation by giving Japan’s military its second consecutive annual budget increase, as a pledge against war and said it was not aimed at hurting feelings in China or South Korea.
The Yasukuni shrine is seen as the repository of around 2.5 million souls of Japan’s war dead, including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II who were enshrined in the 1970s.
South Korea and China see it as a symbol of Tokyo’s lack of repentance for the horrors of the last century.
Mr Abe said in a statement: “Some people criticise the visit to Yasukuni as paying homage to war criminals, but the purpose of my visit today is to report before the souls of the war dead how my administration has worked for one year and to renew the pledge that Japan must never wage a war again.
“For 68 years after the war, Japan created a free and democratic country, and consistently walked the path of peace. There is no doubt whatsoever that we will continue to pursue this path.
“It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people. It is my wish to respect each other’s character, protect freedom and democracy, and build friendship with China and Korea with respect.”
The visit came exactly 12 months after he took power, a period in which he has met neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.
Ties with Beijing were bad before Mr Abe took office, with the two countries crossing diplomatic swords over the ownership of a string of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, controlled by Japan, but claimed by China.
The dispute has been ratcheted up further this year, with the involvement of military aircraft and ships, leaving some observers warning of the danger of armed conflict between the world’s second and third-largest economies.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: “The essence of Japanese leaders’ visits to the Yasukuni shrine is to beautify Japan’s history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule.”