China, US condemn Japanese premier’s visit to war shrine

2013-12-26 09:14

Numerous countries – among them China and the US – have condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni war shrine.

The US said it was “disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbours”.

South Korea today expressed anger at the visit, calling it “anachronistic behaviour”.

“We can’t help deploring and expressing anger at the prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine ... despite concerns and warnings by neighbouring countries,” Seoul’s culture minister, Yoo Jin-Ryong, told reporters.

“The visit ... is an anachronistic behaviour that fundamentally damages not only relations between the South and Japan, but also the stability and cooperation of the northeast Asia,” he said.

China said the visit glorified Japan’s “history of militaristic aggression”.

“We strongly protest and seriously condemn the Japanese leader’s acts,” said Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Qin Gang, immediately after Abe’s visit to the shrine yesterday.

China would make “solemn representations” to Japan over his actions, the ministry said.

Yasukuni is believed to be the repository of around 2.5 million souls of Japan’s war dead – most of them common soldiers, but also including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War 2 – who were enshrined in the 1970s.

“The essence of Japanese leaders’ visits to the Yasukuni shrine is to beautify Japan’s history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule,” Qin said, adding that Abe was “brutally trampling on the feelings of the Chinese people and those of other victimised Asian countries”.

China’s ruling Communist Party seeks to bolster its public support by tapping into deep-seated resentment of Japan for its brutal invasion of the country in the 1930s.

Before and during World War 2, Japanese forces swept through much of east Asia, where their treatment of both civilian populations in occupied areas and prisoners of war was often appalling, with the Nanjing Massacre one of the worst atrocities recorded.

According to estimates by Chinese government researchers, China lost 20.6 million people directly from the war.

Even now the history is a key element of the backdrop to the two countries’ bitter dispute over islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing sees as having been seized by Tokyo at the start of its expansionism.

Qin’s statement came after a Chinese foreign ministry official condemned Abe’s action as “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people”.

Japan “must bear the consequences arising from this”, Luo Zhaohui, director-general of the ministry’s department of Asian affairs, said in a statement posted on a verified ministry microblog.

He added that the visit, the first by an incumbent Japanese prime minister since 2006, “causes great harm to the feelings of the Asian people and creates a significant new political obstacle to bilateral relations”.

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