TOKYO: Japan’s prime minister sent an offering to a shrine for war dead yesterday, the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two defeat, while cabinet members visited it in person, drawing harsh complaints from China and South Korea, and putting at risk tentative steps to improve ties.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was treading a fine line between trying not to inflame tension with China and South Korea and upholding a conservative ideology shared by his supporters.
But at least three cabinet ministers and dozens of lawmakers paid their respects at Yasukuni Shrine, seen as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
“I asked my special aide ... to make the offering on my behalf with a feeling of gratitude and respect for those who fought and gave their precious lives for their country,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office.
“As for when I might go to Yasukuni Shrine, or whether I will go or not, I will not say as this should not become a political or diplomatic issue,” he said after his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) aide conveyed the offering in the name of “Shinzo Abe, LDP leader.” Visits to the shrine by top politicians outrage China and South Korea because the shrine honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, along with war dead.
China summoned the Japanese ambassador to protest.
“It does not matter in what form or using what identity Japanese political leaders visit the Yasukuni Shrine, it is an intrinsic attempt to deny and beautify that history of invasion by the Japanese militarists,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We urge Japan to ... take concrete steps to win the trust of the international community, otherwise Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbours have no future.
A retired Chinese general was more blunt.
“Can you imagine what the world would think of Germany if they paid homage to Nazi boss Hitler?” retired Chinese Major General Luo Yuan, one of China’s most outspoken military figures, wrote in the influential tabloid the Global Times.