Abe’s offering at Yasukuni Shrine riles China, S Korea

April 22, 2014 - 12:01:49 am

TOKYO:  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, angering both South Korea and China yesterday and putting regional ties under further strain. 

Adding to unease in the region, a Chinese maritime court in Shanghai seized a ship on Saturday owned by Japanese shipping firm Mitsui OSK Lines, a move that Japan warned could have an adverse impact on its businesses in China.

The court said the company had failed to pay compensation stemming from a wartime contractual obligation. China’s Foreign Ministry said the disagreement was a normal commercial dispute.

Japan said the ship seizure, apparently the first time the assets of a Japanese company have been seized in a lawsuit concerning compensation for World War Two, was “extremely regrettable.” 

“It is inevitable that this will have an adverse impact on Japanese companies in China,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. “We strongly urge the Chinese government to make the proper response.” The spat over the ship was a “regular business contract dispute,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, adding that the government would safeguard the rights of foreign investors.

“This case has nothing to do with compensation from the Chinese-Japanese war (World War Two),” Qin told a regular news briefing. 

“Nothing has changed in the Chinese government’s position on adhering to, and defending every principle in, the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement,” he added, referring to an announcement in 1972 that the two countries were establishing official ties.

At the time, Japan also recognised the government in Beijing as the sole government of China and China gave up claims to Japanese war reparations.  “China will continue to protect the interests and rights of foreign investors in China according to law,” Qin said.

The offering by Abe, who visited the shrine in December but did not go in person this time, was sent just before US President Barack Obama begins a three-day visit to Japan tomorrow.

The United States has said it was “disappointed” with Abe’s shrine visit last year, which infuriated Beijing and Seoul. China protested on April 12 after internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo visited the shrine, where 14 Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honoured, along with Japan’s war dead.       Reuters