It was expected that there would be a strong reaction from Japan’s neighbors when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a visit on Thursday to the controversial Yasukuni shrine honoring the country’s war dead. The international community also gave their two cents worth on how this visit would affect relations in the East Asian region.
Japan’s closest ally, the United States, made an unprecedented critical statement, saying they were “disappointed” with Abe’s move that will surely “exacerbate tensions” with countries who feel strongly about this issue. Despite emphasizing that Japan is “a valued ally and friend”, the statement from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said that they hope Japan and its neighbors will deal with this latest sensitive issue constructively. But the statement also notes that Abe has expressed remorse for past actions and reaffirmed Japan’s “commitment to peace.” This is the first time that the U.S. has expressed an opinion about a prime minister’s visit to the shrine, which countries like China and South Korea consider to be a glorification of Japan’s militaristic past.
Meanwhile Russia, a country that doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Japan due to a territorial dispute, said that they express regret over Abe’s action. Foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that some sectors in Japan have a different interpretation of the outcome of World War II compared to the rest of the world’s understanding. This can be a veiled criticism as well of Japan’s claims to the Northern Territories, which are under Russia’s control and known as the Kuril Islands.
As expected, former imperial colony South Korea has also condemned the visit, calling it “deplorable” and saying they cannot “repress condemnation and rage” over what they see as celebrating Japan’s colonial aggression. The statement was made by Culture Minister Yoo Jin Ryong, and he also warned that this can jeopardize the already tenuous ties between the two countries.
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