News / Asia

    South Korean Lawmakers Condemn Japan War Shrine Visit

    A South Korean protester holds burning placards during a rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.
    A South Korean protester holds burning placards during a rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.
    Daniel Schearf
    South Korean lawmakers have condemned Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial shrine honoring World War II dead, including war criminals. The denunciation is the latest sign of the diplomatic falling out that has seen Japan's relations with South Korea and China reach a new low.
     
    South Korea's National Assembly on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of a resolution denouncing Abe's visit last week to the Yasukuni war shrine.
     
    The shrine symbolically entombs the spirits of Japan's 2.5 million killed in World War II, including 14 officers found guilty of, or on trial when they died for, war crimes.
     
    China and the two Koreas, which suffered heavily during the war, consider visits there by politicians an insult.
     
    Park Byung-seok, Deputy Chairman of South Korea's National Assembly, said that all 211 lawmakers present voted in favor of the resolution.
     
    The Japanese prime minister's visit to Yasukuni was widely slammed in Chinese and South Korean media as an insult that would further set back already frosty relations.
     
    Not to be outdone, North Korea on Monday called Abe's visit tantamount to a declaration of war. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Japan's right-wing politicians were courting self-destruction.
     
    The South Korean lawmakers' declaration is the most formal condemnation yet of Abe. It follows China's announcement on Monday it would shun the Japanese leader despite his attempts to hold a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
     
    South Korean President Park Geun-hye also refuses to meet with Abe because of a territorial dispute and what the South Korean leader sees as attempts to conceal Japans' colonial and war-time aggression.
     
    Abe defended his visit to the shrine, saying it was a personal one and was not intended to upset China or South Korea. Instead, he hoped the visit would remind the world that Japan would never again go to war.
     
    Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Japan's Temple University, thinks Abe made a shrewd political calculation. He said the Japanese leader’s visit was aimed at gathering domestic support for his policies amid dwindling popularity at home.
     
    “So, in provoking China and South Korea in this way I think he believes that this will actually put wind in his sails. That China acting as the regional bully, blustering and condemning Japan will actually create sort of a 'circling of the wagons' mentality among the Japanese. And so, his more assertive security policy, which in general is not very popular among Japanese, will get sort of some support that it probably wouldn't otherwise have,” said Kingston.
     
    Kingston also said that with growing tensions between Japan and China in the East China Sea, Abe's action irresponsibly raises tensions.
     
    China's abrupt November declaration of an extended Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed islands in the sea raised alarms as well.
     
    Beijing demanded all aircraft entering the zone to first declare flight plans, a policy that was firmly rejected by Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington.
     
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned China's unilateral action raised the risk for miscalculation and mistakes.
     
    Washington expressed its disappointment with Abe's visit to Yasukuni, pointing out that it would raise tensions with Japan's neighbors.
     
    Kingston said Japan-China trade is also put at risk by Abe's Yasukuni visit, which was the first by a sitting prime minister in Japan in seven years.
     
    “There was last year some spill-over into Sino-Japanese trade. There was an overall decline. And so, there is a real risk that this will lead to further decline in Sino-Japanese trade. And, China is Japan's biggest trading partner. And, China represents growth for Japan's industries. So, I imagine many big business leaders here are scratching their heads and wondering 'why now Mr. Abe?'” said Kingston.
     
    The diplomatic repercussions from Yasukuni could also affect regional security concerns, as relations between the two U.S. allies continue to deteriorate.
     
    The Yonhap news agency reported that Seoul cancelled defense and security talks with Tokyo and planned military exchange programs.

    You May Like

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    Speeding Causes Spike in Deaths on South African Roads

    At least 14,000 people die each year from country’s traffic-related incidents; authorities criticized on issues of safety, legal enforcement

    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 Turkey Islamists

    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