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

Related Stories

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."

Analysis

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.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 4.

    "Have your say?"

    I think the BBC is adding fuel to the fire with your pointless speculation No, I don't like it, but I also don't get emotional over things that are now history. Nobody yells at the Turks for doing similar things.

    BBC needs to learn how to mind their own business. Your reporting on that Russian Billionaire thief as a 'victim of Putin' is disgusting. Ukraine doesn't want you.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 29.

    Nothig wrong with visiting a shrine, respecting their fallen. Our countries have them and we pay respect, just because they saw the war from the other side makes no odds. We have new shrines added all the time, more war graves, and those in conflict still. The crime here is that we are led my lesser men, and go to the grave for their gains. This wk China, next wk Syria, wk after Africa yada yada

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 34.

    Japan will deal with the Karma, Tsunami and Fukushima. The rest of the world will get their Karma too. Life is not for taking-at any cost. We have a chance here, and we are led by lesser men. We are led to false climbs and no hope, if your eyes were open you would see it, yet you are still afraid to look in. Queens speech was cool, reflection...something we all need to do.He who is without sin ect

  • rate this
    -5

    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
    -5

    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

 

Comments 5 of 74

 

More Asia stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ClockMore for less?

    Could spending less time in the office make you perform more efficiently?

Programmes

  • A factory in JapanThe Travel Show Watch

    Factory infatuation – why Japan’s industrial compounds are drawing large crowds at night

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.