South Korea and China angered by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's visit to controversial shrine to war dead

Neighbouring countries unhappy over public 'celebration' of Japan's attacks

Tokyo

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited a shrine seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime aggression, infuriating China and South Korea and prompting concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the North Asian neighbours.

China and South Korea have repeatedly expressed anger in the past over Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after the Second World War are honoured along with those who died in battle.

The two countries have been especially touchy about visits to the shrine by serving Japanese prime ministers, and Mr Abe is the first leader in office to pay homage at Yasukuni in the past seven years.

Business ties between China and Japan have improved after a row last year over tiny East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by China. But worries are growing that an unintended incident between Japanese and Chinese aircraft and ships playing cat-and-mouse near the disputed isles could escalate into a military clash.

Read more:

The next Asian crisis: Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine has aggravated China and increased the chance of a calamitous conflict

Mr Abe, a conservative who took office for a second term one year ago, said he did not intend to hurt feelings in neighbouring nations.

“There is criticism based on the misconception that this is an act to worship war criminals, but I visited Yasukuni Shrine to report to the souls of the war dead on the progress made this year and to convey my resolve that people never again suffer the horrors of war,” he told reporters after the visit.

Television carried live video of his motorcade making its way to the shrine, built in 1896 by Emperor Meiji to enshrine war dead. Yasukuni played a key role in the wartime state Shinto religion which mobilised the population to fight in the name of a divine emperor. Mr Abe bowed at the shrine before following a Shinto priest into an inner sanctum.

Stressing that it was natural for a nation’s leader to pay respect to those who died for their country, Mr Abe said he shared the view of past Japanese leaders that ties with China and South Korea were important and that to make them firm was in Japan’s national interests – and said that he would like to explain that, if given the opportunity.

Tokyo’s relations with Beijing and Seoul are already strained by territorial rows and disputes stemming from Japan’s wartime occupation of large parts of China and its 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Mr Abe’s action had pushed Japan in an “extremely dangerous” direction.

Paying respects at the shrine is part of Mr Abe’s conservative agenda to restore Japan’s pride in its past and recast its wartime history with a less apologetic tone. He also wants to ease the restraints of Japan’s post-Second World War pacifist constitution on the military.

No serving Japanese prime minister has visited the shrine since Junichiro Koizumi’s annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni during his 2001-2006 tenure.

REUTERS

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy