Japan PM Shinzo Abe visits Yasukuni WW2 shrine


Shinzo Abe's visit will make relations with China worse, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes

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Japan's prime minister has infuriated China and South Korea by visiting a shrine that honours Japan's war dead, including some convicted war criminals.

Shinzo Abe said his visit to Yasukuni was an anti-war gesture.

But China called the visit "absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people", and Seoul expressed "regret and anger".

They see Yasukuni as a symbol of Tokyo's aggression during World War Two, when Japan occupied large parts of China and the Korean peninsula.

The US embassy in Tokyo said in a statement it was "disappointed" and that Mr Abe's actions would "exacerbate tensions" with Japan's neighbours.

Yasukuni Shrine

  • Built in 1869 under the Emperor Meiji
  • Venerates the souls of 2.5m war dead
  • Those enshrined include hundreds of convicted war criminals, among them executed war-time leader Hideki Tojo
  • Shrine organisers stress that many thousands of civilians are honoured
  • China and South Korea see shrine as glorification of Japanese atrocities

China, Japan and South Korea are embroiled in a number of disputes over territory in the East China Sea.

'Major obstacle'

It was the first visit to Yasukuni by a serving prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went in 2006.

Mr Abe, who took office a year ago, entered the shrine on Thursday morning, wearing a morning suit and grey tie. His arrival was televised live.

"I chose this day to report [to the souls of the dead] what we have done in the year since the administration launched and to pledge and determine that never again will people suffer in war," he said.

"It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people."

Shinzo Abe (2nd L) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo December 26 Shinzo Abe is the first prime minister to visit the shrine for seven years
Visitors hang fortune blessing papers at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo December 26 Woman and children who have died in 150 years of war are among 2.5 million people honoured
A policeman stands guard at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo December 26 The enshrining of hundreds of WW2 criminals in the 1970s made the shrine hugely controversial

Officials said Mr Abe visited the shrine in a private capacity and was not representing the government.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: "We strongly protest and seriously condemn the Japanese leader's acts.

"This poses a major political obstacle in the improvement of bilateral relations. Japan must take responsibility for all the consequences that this creates."


If the shrine is so offensive to China and South Korea why did Mr Abe go?

Firstly, because he wanted to. Close observers of the Japanese prime minister say he is at heart a nationalist and a historical revisionist.

He believes the trials that convicted Japan's wartime leaders were "victors' justice".

His own grandfather Nobusuke Kishi served in the war cabinet and was arrested by the Americans on suspicion of being a Class A war criminal. He was later released without charge.

But the stain of association with Japan's war crimes in China never completely went away.

Secondly, Mr Abe's support base comes from the right wing of the Liberal Democratic Party.

According to Professor Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo, Mr Abe is "showing he is a tough guy", that he is not afraid of China. It is something that plays very well to his base.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says Japan made an unwritten agreement with China in the 1970s that serving leaders would not visit the shrine.

Mr Abe appears to have broken that deal, our correspondent says.

In August, Mr Abe sent a ritual offering to the shrine but was not among a group of dozens of Japanese politicians who visited Yasukuni.

During an earlier period in office between 2006-2007 he said he would not even discuss visiting the shrine "as long as the issue remains a diplomatic problem".

Yasukuni commemorates some 2.5 million Japanese men, women and children who have died in wars.

But the souls of hundreds of convicted WW2 criminals are also enshrined there.

Fourteen so-called Class A criminals - those who were involved in planning the war - are among those honoured. They include war-time leader General Hideki Tojo, who was executed for war crimes in 1948.

Mr Abe's grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was minister of industry for much of the war. He was arrested after Japan's surrender but was never charged and went on to serve as prime minister.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    I personally hate it that whenever Japanese leaders go to Yasukuni shrine, Chinese people will feel humiliated and angry. I have some Japanese friends, we all agree that more often than not, many so-called sensitive issues hardly seem to have anything to do with our life. It's often like a battle between two countries high level leaders. End this endless feud!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The Nbaka is a lie
    The perfect example of rewriting history to fit your views. You denying the Nakba is no different from a neo-Nazi denying the Holocaust. It goes against all the physical and witness evidence

    This is exactly why Japan rewriting their history stops the brainwashed from understanding why their victims hate them. The Fox News method of spreading information

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    70.Alha speaks
    Chinese history is just nauseating propaganda ...committed against Tibet, Xinjiang and Vietnam

    == HAHA, if the Chinese history is so fake, how could China own Tibet, Xinjiang (and Vietnam before)? Forget your campaign of Tibet based on lies, 95% of Tibetans nowadays would never want to be serf again under the ex-LALA's rule

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    This is non news, what the hell is the news department at the BBC thinking, lets have current and relevant news discussions, this is about as valid as tonight's BBC programmes, what more Dads Army! Try discussing the hot topics that make the moderators squirm!

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    64.Alha speaks
    How many millions of Tibetans have died horribly at the hands of the Chinese?

    == How many millions? Can you tell everyone here precisely how many millions of Tibetans before and after the communist China's rule ? -- before: 1million (95% serf); after: 2 millions, Stop your lies and don’t tell me DALA or LALA is purely spiritual leader

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    63.Alha speaks
    @. Ed80
    Not true, all those things you listed can be found in ANY UK library
    People are free to write some books, telling the truth sometimes gets you killed though
    The issue, to me, is that orders to commit abuses, as with WW2 Japan, come from high up, they are then covered up to avoid the elite facing consequences. That's our rewriting, failing to attribute & accept blame

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    ref #60
    Ignoring the Nakba
    Dubious legality of Iraq war
    The Nbaka is a lie, Palestinian and Lebanese terrorism is not
    The Iraq war was legal by any international standard

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    China had fought Japan for 8 years before the final end of WWII. 80% of Japanese army was tied up in the mainland China so that Japan could have not opened a second front on the USSR and deployed its effective forces enough to fight in the pacific region

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Interesting that Chinese officials condemn the visit and at the same time they visit Mao’s mausoleum. As far as I know Mao and his party (still in power in China) killed many more Chinese that Japanese ever did.

  • Comment number 64.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 63.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    None of Japanese have to go too far or to any island to pay respect to war dead.They have got Hiroshima and Nagasaki not far.They were the mistakes of past and so was the slave trade and colonialism of the countries through out the world.Let no human do those mistakes even in the name of protection of religions or human rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Local media has made a better late than never effort to interview WWII veterans or their families in order to find out individual stories. Local PBS has done it share. Perhaps Japanese no surrender attitude had more to do with expecting they would be treated as their government treated prisoners than any loyalty to the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The difference between the crimes the British did and the Japanese is that we admit our past faults. We don't institutionally deny it
    Not true, we rewrite history as much as anyone else. Last century we committed or ignored, then hid, horrific crimes against humanity;

    Blacks & Tans in Ireland
    Mau Mau horrors
    Ignoring the Nakba
    Dubious legality of Iraq war

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.


    One Planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Utimately speaking any attack or counterattack is unhuman as well as crime. So what's the point of scapegoating the germans and japanese ?!
    Also European colonisation clearly triggered these unnecessary deaths during the WW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Unit 731, that's why the Chinese and Koreans are spitting blood. That's what they were doing at the time, too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Good & evil and virtue & sin are state of the mind of one and hence one instantly transform into the other depending upon how one's heart is dealing with the situation. So long the desire of the PM Mr.Abe's is good and intention too is likewise; we must not react that much to escalate the situation further, deriving or attaching different meanings to the visit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I suspect China's outrage has more to do with some crappy little Island surrounded by Natural Gas and newly imposed flight restrictions that righteous indignation about War Atrocities.

    It is loathsome to use the Dead as Political Currency.


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