World News

    Japan's Abe Criticized for Visit to Controversial War Shrine

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has paid respects at a Tokyo war shrine that many of Japan's neighbors see as a symbol of its militaristic past.

    The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister since 2006, was quickly condemned by South Korea and China, both victims of imperialist Japan's aggression.

    Mr. Abe downplayed the political impact of the Thursday visit, saying it was not meant to hurt the feelings of Japan's neighbors, but was a sign of respect for his country's war dead.



    "I also prayed for the resting of the souls of all the people whose lives were taken by war. Additionally, I vowed for a renunciation of war and I was emboldened to create an era where people's lives would not be engulfed and pained by the misery of war."



    The Shinto shrine honors Japan's nearly 2.5 million war dead, including 14 convicted World War II war criminals.



    Beijing promptly said it summoned Japan's ambassador to deliver what it called a "strong protest and severe reprimand."

    Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Japanese ambassador the move pushed Japan in an "extremely dangerous direction" and that Tokyo must "bear full responsibility" for unspecified political consequences.

    Earlier, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang slammed Mr. Abe's visit as "absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people."



    "The Chinese government expresses strong outrage and protest and solemnly condemns Japanese leaders ruthlessly trampling the feelings of the Chinese people and people of other war-affected Asian countries and bluntly challenging historical justice and human conscience."



    South Korea's minister of culture, sports and tourism, Yoo Jinryong, labeled the move as "anachronistic" and said it will hurt South Korea-Japan ties.

    The U.S., a strong ally of Tokyo, said in a statement via its embassy in Japan that it is "disappointed" the country's leaders have undertaken an action that will "exacerbate tensions" with its neighbors.



    Michael Cucek with the MIT Center for International Studies in Tokyo tells VOA the move likely sets back any efforts to improve relations between China and Japan.



    "It's going to put everything at the bottom of the sea. It is absolutely a slap in the face to all of the people who have been working behind the scenes or formally trying to bring the governments of the region together. It's saying, 'I don't care.'"



    Beijing says Tokyo has failed to atone for its brutal 1930s invasion of large parts of China. It views visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni as evidence it has not repented.

    Prime Minister Abe, who is known for his hawkish views, has sent ritual offerings to the shrine. He also has said he regrets not visiting during his first term as prime minister, which ended in 2007.

    His visit comes exactly one year after he ascended to Japan's top political post. It also came on the sensitive 120th anniversary of the birthday of Mao Zedong, who founded the People's Republic of China.

    China-Japan ties have also worsened recently because of a bitter dispute over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

    Mr. Abe has accused China of using its rising military power to change the status quo of the Japan-controlled islands. He also plans to increase Japan's defense spending and revise its pacifist constitution to allow for what he calls a "proactive peace policy."

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora