Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

Currently: 73° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

China, S. Korea blast Japan’s war shrine visits

Image

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bows before the main altar decorated with huge bank of chrysanthemums as he offers prayers for the war dead during a memorial ceremony at Budokan Martial Arts Hall in Tokyo, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Abe visited Yasukuni in December 2013, drawing widespread criticism. But Aug. 15 is a key date as it marks the day in 1945, when Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender on the radio. Japan on Friday, marked the 69th anniversary of its surrender, ending the WWII.

TOKYO — China and South Korea reacted strongly Friday to visits by three Japanese Cabinet ministers to a Tokyo shrine that honors the war dead including convicted war criminals, although Japan's prime minister stayed away.

Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, one of the three ministers who visited Yasukuni Shrine, said it was "only natural as a Japanese" to honor those who had given up their lives for their country.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo told reporters his visit was a vow to never wage war again, and shrugged off concerns it may set off a diplomatic row.

"If it does, the government should give a clear and good explanation," he told reporters after praying at the shrine. A third official, Administrative Reform Minister Tomomi Inada, visited later Friday.

China lambasted the visits as proof of Tokyo's incorrect understanding of history, calling Yasukuni "a spiritual tool and symbol for the Japanese militarists."

"Sino-Japanese relations can develop in a healthy and stable way only if Japan can face up to and reflect on the history of invasion and make a clear break with militarism," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in an online statement.

In Seoul, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said some Japanese politicians were acting in a way that hurts both South Koreans and Japanese and further pushes the countries' people apart.

In a speech marking South Korea's independence from Japanese colonialism, Park also asked Japanese leaders to act wisely and expressed hopes that next year the countries will move together toward friendlier ties.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not go to the shrine, but sent a gift through an envoy. His visit to Yasukuni in December drew widespread criticism, including from the U.S., Japan's most important ally.

Abe signed the gift as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and not as prime minister, a party official said.

The enshrinement of Class-A war criminals, such as wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, among the 2.5 million dead at Yasukuni Shrine makes the visits a target of condemnation from China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan's aggression and see the shrine as a symbol of brutality.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended the visits as religious freedom, noting that praying for the war dead is natural for any country and that the ministers acted in a private capacity.

Dozens of lawmakers from various parties visited the shrine, wearing dark suits and outfits.

At a ceremony commemorating the end of World War II at a Tokyo hall, attended by thousands of people, Abe said later Friday that the sacrifices of the previous generation brought "peace and prosperity" to Japan.

"We will never forget that," Abe told the crowd, noting that Japan must "humbly face up to history."

Emperor Akihito, whose father surrendered at the end of World War II, also offered prayers at the ceremony on a stage covered with chrysanthemums, flanked by his wife Michiko.

Although extremist nationalists throng Yasukuni, wearing old uniforms and tooting bugle horns, thousands of regular people also go to the shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of the war.

Veteran Shirataka Kuribayashi, 88, was among those lining up to bow and pray for no more wars.

"The memory fades away, and people forget about the war. I think we need to stop that," he said.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy