China's United Nations envoy has lashed out at Japan, accusing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of taking the country down a "very dangerous path" by visiting a controversial war shrine.
Liu Jieyi told reporters late Wednesday Mr. Abe was in effect "siding with war criminals" by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which he said "whitewashes and glorifies aggression."
He called on the international community to issue a warning that Abe "must correct his erroneous outlook of history, he must correct his mistakes and he must not slip further down the wrong path."
In response, Japan's U.N. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said Mr. Abe's visit was not to pay homage to war criminals or praise militarism, but was to pay respects to Japan's war dead.
He also renewed the prime minister's call for direct talks with China over the issue, which is the latest irritant in the increasingly tense China-Japan relationship. China has rejected the proposal.
Fourteen convicted War World II war criminals are among the 2.5 million dead soldiers honored at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine. Official Japanese visits to the site are seen as insensitive to many in China, which experienced a brutal occupation by Japan in the 1930s.
Beijing-Tokyo relations have also been strained by a worsening dispute over a group of uninhabited islands in a strategic area of the East China Sea.