UK & World News

  • 26 December 2013, 11:52

China Condemns Japan PM's Visit To War Shrine

Japan's nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has paid an inflammatory visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine.

Beijing 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 Yasukunishrine 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 China's President Xi Jinping or South Korea's 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.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: "The essence of Japanese leaders' visits to the Yasukunishrine is to beautify Japan's history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule."

South Korea's culture minister Yoo Jin-Ryong said: "We can't help deploring and expressing anger at the prime minister's visit to the Yasukunishrine despite concerns and warnings by neighbouring countries."

The United States said: "Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbours."

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