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Japanese prime minister visits Yasukuni war shrine

By Ken Moritsugu

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:38 a.m. HST, Dec 26, 2013

TOKYO >> Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects Wednesday at a shrine honoring Japan's war dead in a move that drew a quick rebuke from China warning that the visit celebrated Japan's military attacks on its neighboring countries.

The visit to the shrine, which honors 2.5 million war dead including convicted class A war criminals, appears to be a departure from Abe's "pragmatic" approach to foreign policy, in which he tried to avoid alienating neighboring countries.

It was the first visit by a sitting prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went to mark the end of World War II in 2006.

Visits to Yasukuni by Japanese politicians have long been a point of friction with China and South Korea, because of Japan's brutal aggression during World War II.

Abe, wearing a formal black jacket with tails and striped, gray pants, spent about 15 minutes at the Shinto shrine in central Tokyo. TV cameras followed him inside the shrine property, but were not allowed in the inner shrine where he paid respects to the war dead.

"I prayed to pay respect for the war dead who sacrificed their precious lives and hoped that they rest in peace," he told waiting reporters immediately afterward.

He said criticism that Yasukuni visits are an act of worshipping war criminals is based on a misunderstanding.

"Unfortunately, a Yasukuni visit has largely turned into a political and diplomatic issue," he said, adding, "I have no intention to neglect the feelings of the people in China and South Korea."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued a strong rebuke in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

"We strongly protest and seriously condemn the Japanese leader's acts," Qin said.

He called visits to Yasukuni "an effort to glorify the Japanese militaristic history of external invasion and colonial rule ... and to challenge the outcome of World War II."

He added: "Japanese leaders are not only showing no moderation but have doubled their efforts and created a serious incident on historical issues. This poses a major political obstacle in the improvement of bilateral relations. Japan must take responsibility for all the consequences that this creates."

Thursday's visit came on the first anniversary of Abe's taking office as prime minister. Abe, who had visited previously when he was not prime minister, had expressed extreme regret over his decision not to visit Yasukuni during an earlier one-year term in office in 2006-2007.

"It's been one year since I took office and I chose this day to come here and report to the spirits about the progress over the past year and to renew my commitment to peace so that we will never cause anyone to suffer in war," Abe said.

Adding to the unease of Japan's neighbors is Abe's support for revising Japan's pacifist constitution and expanding the military to counter rising tensions over a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China.



AP writers Mari Yamaguchi and Gillian Wong, in Beijing, contributed.

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Adam1105 wrote:
The Japanese seemed determined to stay on bad terms with nearly everyone in East Asia.
on December 25,2013 | 10:46PM
bokuchan wrote:
Here's the slippery slope. I only see China and South Korea actively engaging in anti-Japanese campaign; the two countries that nobody wants as a neighbor. Sadly, once they started to lie, they have to keep lying.
on December 26,2013 | 09:25AM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
bokuchan stop smoking that crack pipe and stop reading the lies in Japanese textbooks!
on December 26,2013 | 11:29AM
kolohepalu wrote:
No, Korea and China have issues with them. And make a lot of noise.
on December 26,2013 | 08:49PM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
14 Japanese Class-A War Criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni.
on December 26,2013 | 04:04AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Hundreds at Arlington.
on December 26,2013 | 08:49PM
manakuke wrote:
For centuries China’s army has been a formidable asset. Border troops delayed invaders until elite troops could get to the scene. Modern technologies enable troops to leap-frog armies. A visit to Yasukuni is awareness of this.
on December 26,2013 | 05:14AM
kolohepalu wrote:
How would America respond to other countries that protested the president visiting Arlington? There are soldiers who slaughtered Indians buried there, soldiers that fought wars of colonialism and suppression, and soldiers who committed war crimes- but he goes- because the majority were just boys dying for their country. Korea was annexed, China lost a war, and they still obsess about the loss of face- that is behind their constant yelping about the Japanese, not their feigned moral outrage.
on December 26,2013 | 05:20AM
Ronin006 wrote:
kolohepalu, your analogy I spot on.
on December 26,2013 | 07:35AM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
kolohepalu stop smoking that crack pipe and stop reading the lies in Japanese textbooks!
on December 26,2013 | 11:31AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Yomama, come up with an original line and a coherent thought process. Good luck with the second.
on December 26,2013 | 08:50PM
ezridah wrote:
if they didnt go to war, there wouldn't be a shrine for their war dead
on December 26,2013 | 05:47AM
Morimoto wrote:
Do you always make such obvious statements?
on December 26,2013 | 07:55AM
bokuchan wrote:
If they didn't go to war, the Korean peninsula will be speaking Russian today, and many Asian countries had remained colonized by European countries and the U.S. for an extended period just like the countries in African continent...
on December 26,2013 | 11:11PM
ready2go wrote:
What is Memorial Day is the US?
on December 26,2013 | 05:48AM
Mythman wrote:
Let's see, the US degenerates into a sissy state, China beefs up its military, N Korea is going ballistic and Japan is to sit by idly, wasting its enormous industrial strength because of what? Re-arm Japan, it's time.
on December 26,2013 | 06:05AM
Ronin006 wrote:
China and Korea are reacting to the Prime Minister’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine as though it was built specifically to honor 14 convicted war criminals. The shrine was established in 1868 to honor all military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for Japan since 1853. Currently there are 2,466,000 names enshrined at Yasukuni. No one is buried there. It is totally unreasonable for China and Korea to object to visits to Yasukuni by the Prime Minister or other high-ranking Japanese government officials to honor 2,465,986 souls because of 14 convicted war criminals. I wonder what China would say if Japan or other countries objected to Chinese officials visiting Tiananmen Square where hundreds of Chinese were slaughter by government troops in the pro-democracy movement in June 1989. My guess is they would tell Japan and others to mind their own business.
on December 26,2013 | 07:50AM
kolohepalu wrote:
on December 26,2013 | 08:58PM
Morimoto wrote:
Isn't this similar to the US celebrating Columbus/Discovers Day and Belgium honoring King Leopold? The other asian countries are using these visits to stir up nationlistic feeling among their citizens for political gain.
on December 26,2013 | 07:57AM
Anonymous wrote:
You're right on the money. Secondly, China always use Japan as a target for diverting peoples' anger against the government. Due to unstoppable rampant corruption, the people are angry at the government all the time. When such anger reaches a high point, the State Propaganda machines creates something to divert the peoples' anger and Japan comes in handy. This 'wag the dog' tactic is frequently used by the Communist regime.
on December 26,2013 | 08:37AM
kolohepalu wrote:
on December 26,2013 | 08:58PM
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