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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs