Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit the highly controversial Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the date that marks Japan’s surrender in World War II, government sources revealed on Thursday. The shrine commemorates Japan’s war dead – some 2.5 million citizens and soldiers who perished during war and other conflicts, including 14 WWII war criminals – but is also a symbol of Japan’s aggression to its Asian neighbors. The decision not to visit the shrine may very well be connected to Abe’s current efforts to avoid further tensions with countries such as China and South Korea, recipients of Japan’s pre-war and wartime acts.
Recent visits by Japanese ministers to the shrine have sparked anger and protests from China and South Korea, saying that the country has failed to atone for its brutalities in the first half of the 20th century. South Korea distinctly remembers the sufferings it went through during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula. Abe, considered by many a nationalist, has since then defended the right of Japanese political and national leaders to visit the shrine. “I think it’s quite natural for a Japanese leader to offer prayer for those who sacrificed their lives for their country, and I think this is no different from what other world leaders do,” he said in an interview earlier this year. One such visit made international headlines in April as over 150 Japanese lawmakers made a pilgrimage there to mark a spring festival, sparking anger in Beijing and Seoul.
Reaction to the shrine is at most a mixed bag even to those in Japan, where significant opposition even from some relatives of those honored there say it glorifies Japan’s history of war and conflict. Small issues like the visits to this shrine remain thorns and points of argument in Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, with whom Japan has different sets of territorial disputes. Ironically, as Abe is pushing to lead Japan out of economic stupor, he would clearly need good relations with both nations, as both represent big markets for Japan’s exports.
[via Fox News]