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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own