Wednesday 21 March 2018

Japan PM infuriates China with war crime shrine visit

Japan's Shinzo Abe walks behind a Shinto priest. Mr Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead, in seven years. TORU HANAI/ REUTERS
Japan's Shinzo Abe walks behind a Shinto priest. Mr Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead, in seven years. TORU HANAI/ REUTERS

Malcolm Moore Beijing and Danielle Demetriou Tokyo

CHINA and South Korea reacted with fury after Shi-nzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister in seven years to visit the Yakusuni shrine that honours the country's war dead.

The Chinese foreign ministry described the visit as "absolutely intolerable", saying it was intended to "beautify Japan's history of militaristic aggression". The Chinese government quickly summoned Tokyo's ambassador and delivered a "strong protest".

Among the 2.5 million war dead buried at Yakusuni are several "class A" war criminals, the Japanese leaders who were responsible for starting and waging war in Asia. They were interred there in the 1970s. China estimates that some 21 million of its citizens were killed by Japanese aggression and has accused Japan of denying the extent of its war crimes.

Mr Abe, a nationalist who has led Japan into an increasingly fraught relationship with its East Asian neighbours, was broadcast live on television as he entered the shrine. Japanese leaders have refrained from visiting in recent years to improve relations with China.

Mr Abe was accompanied by a motorcade into the historic shrine, bowing upon arrival before following a Shinto priest into an inner sanctum.

After the visit, Mr Abe defended his decision: "Some people criticise the visit to Yasukuni as paying homage to war criminals, but the purpose of my visit today, is . . . to renew the pledge that Japan must never wage a war again."

However, the Chinese government fired off a flurry of statements and summoned the Japanese ambassador to Beijing for a "severe reprimand".

"The essence of Japanese leaders' visits to the Yasukuni shrine is to beautify Japan's history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule," said the Chinese Foreign ministry. It described relations between the two sides as "already grim" and said the visit was "absolutely unacceptable" and cautioned that Japan "must bear the consequences arising from this".

China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, added that Abe's action pushed Japan in an "extremely dangerous" direction. In South Korea, where president Park Geun-hye has made clear she refuses to hold any summit with Japan, Mr Abe's visit was also condemned, and the United States stated its disapproval of "an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbours".


Earlier this month, Mr Abe took Japan further from its commitment to pacifism, approving a five-year plan that called for the acquisition of drones and amphibious assault vehicles, as it continues a stand-off with China over disputed islands.

Coincidentally, yesterday was the 120th anniversary of the birth of China's Chairman Mao. Officially, the celebrations were supposed to be low-key. But the busloads of Maoists flocking to Chairman Mao's birthplace in Shaoshan, many of them accessorising their designer clothes and iPhones with green revolutionary army caps, are not concealing their enthusiasm.

Lang Lang, the pianist, has already played a concert in Mao Zedong Square, and a train of 120 camels trekked a thousand miles from the deserts of Inner Mongolia as a publicity stunt.

On Monday, a 200 million yuan (€24m) statue was placed in a grand memorial hall. Cast in solid gold, the statue has awed some visitors to kowtow before it in reverence.

The managers of the hall placed three cushions, embroidered with lotus flowers, on the floor for people to fall to their knees. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News