In a move that will surely cause political ripples with Japan’s neighbours, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to visit the controversial Yasukuni war shrine on Thursday morning, according to his office. The visit will happen exactly one year after Abe returned to power and will most likely cause adverse reactions from China and South Korea who are already having tense relations with Japan.
A spokesman from the Prime Minister’s office said, “The office is aware that the prime minister plans to visit the shrine today,” but emphasized that there was no official announcement about the visit. A visit by any high-ranking official to the shrine, which is believed to house the souls of Japan’s war dead, is always met with criticism by their former colonies. China and South Korea believe the shrine to be a symbol of Japan’s past military aggression as it also honors even those who were convicted war criminals.
The last prime minister to make a visit to the shrine during his term was Junichiro Koizumi, when he visited last August 15, 2006 which is the anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat in 1945. Earlier reports pointed to Abe not visiting the shrine due to the already-damaged relations with its neighbours due to territorial and historical issues. But there is also pressure from the conservative sector and his core supporters for Abe to make a visit to the shrine. An unnamed senior Liberal Democratic Party official said that if he wants to stay in office for a long time, he needs to keep these supporters with him. At a news conference earlier this month, Abe said it is “natural” that people should express their respect for the war dead. However, he added, “But it is my thinking that we should avoid making (Yasukuni visits) political and diplomatic issues.”
[ via AFP ]
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