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 54.

    One cannot excuse " that's the Japanese way " of doing things. The Japanese soldiers in WWII killed prisoners of war because they believed it was a dishonor to surrender

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Just remember: when war breaks out it's not like football - nobody gets to choose which side they will fight for. Mourn those who died as a result of such evil, and work to bring peace so that no more are forced to fight... and taking offence at every opportunity is NOT a path to peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Prime minister Abe's visit to the shrine has dismantled the effort of
    friendship building with the ASEAN countries in the last 2 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    44 Adrian
    Your comments insult our grandparents. Until Japan acknowledges the evil it commited, contemporary Japanese people are very much responsible for what happenend in WWII. My grandad's best friend was made to dig his own grave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    ref #49
    How does the existence or non-existence of threads about Lebanese terrorists make what Japanese soldiers did to prisoners and civilians acceptable?

    Because the majority of Japanese are not responsible for war crimes during WW2 and it as an example of the BBC double standard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    MagicKirin: How does the existence or non-existence of threads about Lebanese terrorists make what Japanese soldiers did to prisoners and civilians acceptable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    ref #47
    Interesting the BBC has this thread when the Chinese are honoring Mao who was responsible for the deaths of millions during the cultural revolution. also we never have a thread when the Palestinians or Lebanese honor terrorists

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    No one is saying that people in Japan should be held accountable for crimes they didn't commit. However, Japan clearly hasn't accepted and come to terms with its past history. Their governments comments and airbrushing of Nanking show how deeply rooted national denial is. What the Japanese did to Korea and China in WW2 was appalling and their denial impacts relations today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    QRU: What really concerns the rest of the world is that many in Japan are trying to rewrite history so that young Japanese do not know about these things. Apart from the shock to those young Japanese when they find out what really happened in eg Nanjing it is an insult to those that Japanese soldiers tortured raped and murdered from Japan to India and every country between.

    "Comfort" girls?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Ask how you'd feel about Merkel visiting a shrine to Himmler, Mengeles and Goering and that is what the japanese are doing here.

    Also, the war-criminals were interred in the 1970's, not straight after the war. Either an attempt at revisionist history or japan simply not understanding the enormity and depth of their wickedness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Well done Mr Abe you are right to show respect to those who died for Japan. WW2 ended 68 years ago,almost all of the people living in Japan now had nothing to do with WW2 they are a peacefull and much changed Nation who have done much good for other Countries. China on the other hand have just made a solid gold statue for a man responsible for millions of deaths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Somehow people get so emotional on this topic. I know Japan has done very antihumanism actions against China and Korea during WWII. But Japan has been compensating and did apologize for it. That's true. And Yasukuni shrine has to be understood from the Shintoism view. It's actually an antiwar shrine. It's no wonder the souls of dead should be mourned. That's the Japanese way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    What difference does this make to the world? Nothing!! Come on solar storm!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The difference between the crimes the British did and the Japanese is that we admit our past faults.

    == Honestly, I never met any people from any other countries, who keep saying sorrysorryandsorry as frequent as the Bristish do on a daily basis ==sorry sorry....and sorry

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Like all wars they are started by people who don't fight them and it's always the man and woman in the street who pay the price,I would imagine the Japanese chap was paying homage to these people after all,and China more than most should understand Totalaterianist regimes who force their populations to do their will!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Japan, unlike Germany, has never accepted its culpability for the horrendous crimes committed in its name during WW2. They have intentionally airbrushed their crimes from a new generation of Japanese. The actions of its current Prime Minister, whose own family have questions to answer about their involvement in War Crimes, is a deliberate intent to provoke China for his own political aims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Irony is that every time the Japanese PM does this he reminds the world - again - just how appalling and shameful the behaviour of the Japanese in WW2 really was.

    Using live prisoners for bayonet practice. The Japanese PM shows how much he respects torturers - as long as they are Japanese - when he visits the Shrine to Rapists and Murderers.

    How about showing some respect to the victims?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The difference between the crimes the British did and the Japanese is that we admit our past faults. We don't institutionally deny it. I don't think for a second that countries should deviate into shame because that bring its own problems. However, recognition of the past is in itself progression so that these incidents never happen again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    There are few people alive today who personally experienced the atrocities committed by the Japanese before and during WWII. Since their surrender, they have fulfilled (honored) every commitment of the peace treaty they signed. It's my opinion, that the past should now be put where it belongs, and the Japanese given their freedom (including in the court of public opinion).

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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