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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs