Far right pays tribute to Japan's 'war heroes'

British and Japanese ultranationalists will shrug off protests from war veterans in an unlikely show of solidarity at a controversial Tokyo memorial today, on the 65th anniversary of Japan's surrender in the Second World War.

The British National Party member Adam Walker and France's most famous Holocaust-denier, Jean-Marie Le Pen, will be among a group of European delegates to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which venerates the militarists who led Japan's brief but disastrous rampage across Asia.

"I realise that there are war veterans in the UK who will see this as an insult, especially on V-J day, but Yasukuni is dedicated to the souls of men who died fighting for their country," said Mr Walker. "It's easy to point fingers now but these people were doing what they thought was right at the time."

Mr Walker was cleared earlier this year by the British General Teaching Council of "racial intolerance" after posting comments online calling immigrants "savage animals" and "filth" while working as a teacher in Houghton-le-Spring.

One of the most contentious pieces of real estate in Asia, Yasukuni is considered sacred by nationalists – and a monument to war, empire, and Japan's unrepentant militarism by millions of others. A museum attached to the shrine claims that Japan was lured into the war by the US and waged a campaign to free Asia from white European colonialism.

Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who earlier this week apologised to South Korea for the colonisation of the Korean peninsula, has ruled out visiting the shrine out of respect for Asian victims of his country's past militarism. The leader of the LDP opposition, Sadakazu Tanigaki, meanwhile, plans to visit the shrine tomorrow.

But the European visit looks set to stir greater controversy. The foreign delegation, which also includes ultra-right politicians from Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Austria and Belgium, has been invited to Japan by Issuikai, a right-wing association that denies Japanese war crimes and wants to build a global alliance of nationalist groups to fight American "hegemony". Its leader, Mitsuhiro Kimura, counted among his friends the exiled Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, whom he urged to resist the US invasion of his country in 2003.

Yesterday he and other delegates attended a conference of "patriotic organisations" in Tokyo, where they discussed the perils of immigration, climate change and Islam.

One speech warned that "environmental Marxists" are exaggerating the quantity of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere in a plot to bring more immigrants into the advanced countries and destroy the nation state. "More and more climate immigrants are coming to Europe," said Thibaut De La Tocnaye, a leading member of France's National Front.

The Europeans were applauded when they advised Japan to reject mass immigration and demands that foreigners be allowed to vote in local elections. Mr Le Pen gave a speech on Islam, which he said had a "long tradition of invading other countries". "In my country they come and demand that they be allowed to build giant mosques. That's political, not religious."

Mr Le Pen waved away criticism of the Yasukuni visit. "These men are war heroes. We used to be enemies but I think we must pay respect to people who had to die for their country."

The BNP's Mr Walker, meanwhile, denied reports this week in The Daily Telegraph claiming that his trip was partly funded by British taxpayers. "The money came from Issuikai. I expect nothing less from The Telegraph. It's just a left-wing rag."

*North Korea has urged Japan to apologise and provide compensation for its harsh colonial rule, days after Tokyo offered an apology to South Korea for annexing the Korean peninsula, without mentioning the North.

North Koreans harbour deep resentment of Japan for using Koreans for forced labour and sex slaves during its 1910-45 occupation of the peninsula. North Korea does not have diplomatic relations with Japan.

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