News / Asia

China, S. Korea Criticize Japanese Ministers' War Shrine Visit

Japanese lawmakers, including cabinet ministers, are led by a Shinto priest as they visit the Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead in Tokyo, October 18, 2012.
Japanese lawmakers, including cabinet ministers, are led by a Shinto priest as they visit the Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead in Tokyo, October 18, 2012.
— China and South Korea are criticizing the latest visits to a controversial Tokyo war shrine by members of the Japanese cabinet.

The Thursday visits by two Japanese cabinet ministers, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori and more than 60 other lawmakers from various parties to the Yasukuni shrine prompted quick criticism in other Asian countries.

Yasukuni, where the souls of Class-A war criminals are enshrined, is viewed as a symbol of Japan's early 20th century militarism.

The Japanese officials say their visit was timed to an autumn festival.

South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young calls the act by the Japanese politicians irresponsible, ignoring the sentiments of the victims of Japan's past imperialism in neighboring countries.

Cho says the government of the Republic of Korea wants Japanese political leaders to be responsible and humbly confront history.

In Beijing, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei also called on the Japanese to reflect on history  to better get along with their neighbors.

Hong says the shrine is a spiritual pillar of Japan's overseas aggression.

One of the cabinet members making the pilgrimage to the shrine, Postal Privatization Minister Mikio Shimoji says he made the visit in his official capacity as the secretary general of the People's New Party, an ally of the governing Democratic Party of Japan.

Shimoji says he hopes the visit by him and other politicians will not become a major diplomatic issue.

Transport minister Yuichiro Hata says his visit was in a private capacity.

Hata says he does not know whether the visit will have an effect on relations with China, but he hopes it does not.

The politicians appeared at the shrine one day after the leader of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzo Abe, offered prayers there.

China's Xinhua news agency remarked that Abe's visit has dealt another blow to already fragile Sino-Japanese relations.

Abe, a hawkish former prime minister, is the leading candidate to return to his old job should the opposition prevail in the next general election.

Current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the DPJ, has refrained from visiting Yasukuni and had asked that members of his cabinet also not visit, a request also not heeded previously.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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