China outraged as Japanese lawmakers visit shrine to war dead

TOKYO Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:07am EDT

1 of 2. Women in kimonos stand at the Yasukuni Shrine during the Annual Autumn Festival in Tokyo October 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese minister and more than 100 other lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Friday, prompting China to accuse Japan of undermining ties and trying to overturn the post-World War Two order.

China summoned Tokyo's ambassador in Beijing to express its anger and South Korea also criticized the lawmakers' action.

The visits, marking an autumn festival, came a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his third ritual offering to the shrine since returning to office last year, though he did not visit it in person.

Abe has stayed away from the shrine in central Tokyo, where war criminals are honored along with other war dead, to avoid further straining ties with China and South Korea, both victims of Japan's militarism before its surrender in 1945.

"The Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol and spiritual tool of Japanese militarism," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference in Beijing.

"It consecrates monstrous crimes committed against Asia's victimized peoples, including those in China, by 14 Class A war criminals ... This is a major matter of principle bearing on the foundation of Sino-Japanese relations."

The visits, she said, were another attempt to whitewash Japan's history "and challenge the end result of World War Two, as well as the post-war international order".

China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin summoned Masato Kitera, Japan's ambassador to China, to "lodge solemn representations" over the visits, said Hua.

As well as Japan's war dead, Yasukuni also honors Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, making it a painful reminder to nations that suffered from Japanese aggression in the 20th century.

Internal Affairs Minister Yoshitaka Shindo was the most senior of about 160 lawmakers to visit the shrine to mark the festival, which runs until Sunday. A deputy chief cabinet secretary also went.

"I visited the shrine in a private capacity," Shindo said, noting that his grandfather is honored there. "I do not think this should become a diplomatic issue."

Sino-Japanese ties have been overshadowed for years by what China says has been Japan's refusal to admit to atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China between 1931 and 1945.

TERRITORIAL DISPUTES

Memories of a brutal Japanese occupation also remain strong in South Korea, where the Foreign Ministry repeated its view that Japanese lawmakers should stay away from the shrine.

"We urge Japanese politicians to show speech and actions based on humble introspection and reflection of the past that will help build trust with its neighboring countries," the South Korean ministry said in a statement.

Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said he had also visited the shrine in a private capacity.

"I think that it's only natural to pray for the repose of the souls of people who have given their precious lives for the nation," Kato told a news conference.

Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been fraught for months because of a territorial dispute over islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Japan's relations with South Korea have cooled over a separate territorial dispute.

Abe is seen as a hawkish nationalist with a conservative agenda that includes revising the post-war pacifist constitution, strengthening Japan's defense posture and recasting wartime history with a less apologetic tone.

He has said he regretted not visiting the shrine when he was prime minister in 2006-2007.

(Additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, Christine Kim, Megha Rajagopalan and Paul Carsten; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Comments (13)
Oro_Invictus wrote:
Outrage! Outrage, I say! How dare those Japanese lawmakers send an offering to a shrine which encompasses millions of Japanese war-dead! I mean, there are 14 Class A War Criminals buried there, or .00056 percent of the total!

Those dastardly Japanese lawmakers, it’s not like they’re visiting the shrine because of its association with national identity which existed well before WWII or out of spite for groups like the CPC, which spout “non-interference”, butting their heads in and providing an easy way of garnering popular support. Thank god the PRC came in, thankfully they don’t effectively worship a man who killed more Chinese people than all the Japanese did in modern history! And they would never (never!) give such a man a giant shrine all his own and encourage people to visit, nor plaster his face on their money. No, the CPC truly stands the moral high-ground here, these paragons who in no way rival the USSR government for the group with the highest number of individuals killed by its actions, including more than a million killed each year (if factoring in pollution resulting for government policy).

Oct 18, 2013 11:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
fw360 wrote:
The question here is: Does Japan want to maintain a peaceful relationship with her two important neighbors or not? If the answer is yes, then the solution of this perennial international irritation is simple, just move those Class-A War Criminals out of this historic shrine, as suggested by some Japanese legislators before, then they can do even daily worship there without any issue.

What the Japanese right-wing extremist politicians and their followers refuse to see is: Most of the people in China and Korea see this is equivalent to the current German government paying tribute to Hitler and his colleagues while denying the Holocaust.

By pointing out deficiency in some intra-national issues in China (or Korea) is irrelevant to this inter-national historic and emotional issue at hand.

Oct 18, 2013 6:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Oro_Invictus wrote:
@PPlainTTruth (a misnomer, I might add)

Ignoring the clumsy attempt at character defamation (considering your USAGE of CAPITALIZATION and lack of simple rationality, one would consider this projection) and utter ranting, I’d like to note I’m not defending the Japanese veneration of their war dead (though, it hardly seems different from any other nation), rather, I’m pointing out the ridiculous hypocrisy of the PRC in this matter.

Also, I’m curious, is there any sort of army that is not “predatory”? Will not any side in a conflict declare the other’s intentions as such, whilst their own noble? Considering the atrocities committed by all participants in war, I find the notion that the average Japanese soldier was worse than those from another nation’s suspect, even hamfisted.

Oh, and by the way, the first two groups of war dead the shrine holds? They were from civil wars in Japan, things which would place those fellows firmly outside the realm of “invaders”, as far as other nation-states are concerned. Perhaps you should study up a bit more on the topic, rather than launch into ridiculous tirades.

Oct 18, 2013 8:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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