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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked tension in Asia on Thursday by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The controversial shrine honors Japan’s war dead and that includes 14 convicted war criminals. It was the first time a Japanese leader visited the shrine in seven years and the publicity surrounding the event was seen as a reminder of the country’s military aggression in the first half of the last century.
The move is seen by analysts as an overture towards Abe’s conservative base, although he said that it was meant to show the “preciousness of peace,” reports The Washington Post. But South Korea and China were not happy about it. China’s Foreign Ministry called it a “gross violation of the feelings of Chinese people and people from other Asian countries” who were hurt during World War II.
South Korea released a statement, calling it “deplorable and outrageous,” notes the Globe and Mail. The U.S. embassy said that it was “disappointed that Japan‘s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbours.”
Abe’s visit comes as tension between China and Japan had already been on the rise, as the two countries are in a territorial dispute over East China Sea islands. It also comes as Japan continues to debate on how to deal with its actions before and during World War II. Some have apologized, while other leaders have decided to just not speak on the subject.
“Regrettably, it is a reality that the visit to Yasukuni Shrine has become a political and diplomatic issue,” Abe said after the visit. “Some people criticize the visit to Yasukuni as paying homage to war criminals, but the purpose of my visit today, on the anniversary of my administration’s taking office, is to report before the souls of the war dead how my administration has worked for one year and to renew the pledge that Japan must never wage a war again.”
image: Wikimedia Commons