Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine early Thursday, which sparked criticisms from neighboring countries China and South Korea. The shrine, which honors Japan’s wartime dead, including Class A war criminals from the Second World War, has been a bitter pill for the neighboring countries as both were victims of Japanese wartime aggression.
With PM Abe were several government officials and their visit was live streamed on television. This is the Prime Minister’s first visit to the shrine as he purposely declined to visit the place during his previous stint as a Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007, which he said is something he regrets. The last head of state to visit the shrine was former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2006 as most prime ministers after him had intentionally stayed away to help improve relations with their neighbours.
PM Abe showed his frustration over the controversy that such an act of visiting the shrine has sparked. He explained that it is a normal thing for a national leader to honor the war dead and has stressed that he went there to pay his respects not just to soldiers who served and gave their lives for Japan but to all fallen soldiers in the world. He also told the media that he prayed for peace when he was inside the shrine and vowed that, “Japan must never wage war again.” “This is my conviction based on severe remorse for the past. It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people,” remarked the Prime Minister as his visit comes at an inopportune time when relations with China and South Korea are already tense due to territorial disputes and historical issues.
Despite Abe’s explanation, China was very quick to express their indignation in a statement made by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reminding Abe that, “they solemnly urge the Japanese side to abide by the commitment to reflecting on its history of aggression, taking measures to correct its errors, eliminating adverse effects and taking concrete actions to win over the trusts of its Asian neighbors and the international community.” South Korean news agency Yonhap has also reported that a government official has already rebuked Abe and said that the visit was “sought to justify Japan’s war of aggression” and would be very damaging to the already strained bilateral relations.
[via NY Times]
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