News / Asia

    Japanese Ministers War Shrine Visit Upsets Neighbors

    Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso (2nd R) bows as he visits the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, in this photo provided by Kyodo, April 21, 2013.
    Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso (2nd R) bows as he visits the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, in this photo provided by Kyodo, April 21, 2013.
    Japan's neighbors are reacting angrily to visits by cabinet ministers in Tokyo to a controversial war shrine.
     
    South Korea's foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, has canceled a trip to Tokyo that had been set for this week.
     
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said South Korea expresses “deep concern and regret” over the recent visits by Japanese officials to a Shinto shrine in Tokyo.
     
    Cho said the Yasukuni shrine “glorifies an invasion that inflicted great loss and suffering on Japan's neighbors.”
     
    Japan's deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, visited Yasukuni on Sunday. Aso also serves as finance minister and is a former prime minister.

    Two other Cabinet ministers also visited the controversial shrine.
     
    Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, known for his nationalistic views, did not visit but sent a $500 donation in his name for a tree (cleyera japonica) branch altar decoration.
     
    The Yasukuni shrine honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead - including 14 people convicted as Class-A war criminals following the end of World War II.
     
    Countries which were subject to Japan's brutal colonization in the first half of the 20th century view Yasukuni as an enduring symbol of Japanese imperialism.

    Speaking at a daily news briefing, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry called on Tokyo to "face up to its history of nationalistic aggression."

    Hua Chunying, reacting to the Yasukuni visits, said only when Japan is able to deeply understand its past history and respect the feelings of the victims of its colonialism will it be able to "develop a cooperative relationship with other Asian countries."
     
    The Chinese communist party's newspaper is condemning the prime minister's offering to the shrine. The People's Daily says regardless of what form worship at Yasukuni takes, it demonstrates a “wrong-headed view of history that deals a great blow to peace and stability” in Asia.
     
    Japanese officials are attempting to downplay the significance of the visits to the shrine.
     
    The Japanese chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said the government is not taking a position on personal religious visits made by officials.
     
    Suga said each country is entitled to its position on this, but the ministers' visits should not affect diplomacy.
     
    Tomohiko Taniguchi, councilor at the Cabinet Secretariat in the Japanese prime minister's office, elaborates on this, saying the appearances of the officials at the shrine are being misconstrued.
     
    “From my personal perspective it is the shrine not for cherishing aggression of any sort. It is the place for people to pay homage to those people who died, lost their lives, during the wars," he said. "What you saw done by some of the members of the Japanese Cabinet were the actions taken by those individuals in no way representing the Japanese government's official views.”
     
    Visits by government officials in previous Japanese cabinets have sparked similar diplomatic protests from Seoul and Beijing.

    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Thang from: Vietnam
    April 25, 2013 1:26 AM
    I don't know why Japanese are asked for stopping visiting there. I know some people were sentenced as war criminals, but what should a person do if his father kills someone and then was sentenced to death??? He should not visit his father's tomb after that???

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    April 24, 2013 5:51 PM
    This is my question, regardess concering the matters between Japan and China, how and by whom the justice of war is determined. Is not it executed always by the rules of winners ? In other words, winners are justice?

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    April 24, 2013 4:15 AM
    This is the fact that general Japanese seldom visit Yasukuni shrine and much less worship those who convicted as war criminals. A main reason why not a few cabinet members visit the shrine is that they expect votes on this summer election from fallen soldiers' family members who are markedly interested in the existence of the Shrine.

    by: SEATO
    April 22, 2013 9:15 AM
    Did the Chinese government care about the Vietnamese people's feelings when they organised yearly commemoration of those PLA solders who lost their lives during the 1979 invasion of North Vietnam when thousands of Vietnamese were butchered ,raped and 6 whole provinces were razed to the ground? Imperialist China has committed far worse crimes than Imperial Japan and still doing it now in Tibet and Xinjang
    In Response

    by: oldlamb from: China
    April 25, 2013 5:04 AM
    Tibet and Xinjang have been attached to China for more than 300 years as two provinces since Qing dynasty.It is different concept.please peruse history. Dalai lama was a senior official in China's MingGuo dynasty.
    In Response

    by: Hoang from: Canada
    April 24, 2013 3:58 PM
    to oldlamb,
    So it is just for China to invade Tibet; kill innocent Vietnamese fishermen whose ancestors have been fishing in Vietnam's Paracel and Spratly islands for centuries.
    Vietnamese women and old men kicked PRC ass in 1979 and taught China a lesson.
    In Response

    by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou China
    April 24, 2013 4:59 AM
    There are huge diffrent bettwen China and Japan.It's justical war that China beat Vietname in1979.But the war which Japan invaded Asian 60 years ago was unjust.This is international viewpiont.
    In Response

    by: Remie from: Canada
    April 23, 2013 7:23 AM
    @seattle, Hoa people were a threat? That is more of the PLA lies. If that was the case why did they not finish the invasion? Because they wanted to steal land little by little like china has always done to their nieghbours. They lost that little war and yet told their people they won. Also, if it was to stop the persecution of the Hoa people How did that invasion help? China should stop their barbaric and sneaky ways.
    In Response

    by: SEATTLE
    April 22, 2013 11:48 AM
    To SEATO: I'm from China and I've never heard of the "yearly commemoration of PLA soldiers" killed in 1979. Is that something you made up or it's my ignorance? In fact, lots of Chinese have now realized that the 1979 war was not fought a war of "defense", as the gov't claimed. Though the persecution of ethnic Hoa people in Vietnam at that time was a real issue.

    by: Tom Kinney from: Flint, Michigan, US
    April 22, 2013 5:36 AM
    I would be quite angry if my government tried to isolate an old enemy over religious practice. If enough pressure is applied to Japan they may begin to re-militarize.
    In Response

    by: Lucky from: China
    April 23, 2013 2:06 AM
    Also Japanese are discussing whether to establish the constitution to let them own a Real army that incur Chinese antipathy.

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