Shrine visits to further sour Japan's ties

Updated: 2012-10-23 14:15


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BEIJING - Japanese politicians' latest visits to a controversial war shrine would worsen relations between the country and its neighbors, which suffered under its militaristic regime and colonial rule during World War II, the world's major newspapers say.

Last Thursday, Japanese Transport Minister Yuichiro Hata and Postal Minister Mikio Shimoji visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 leading WWII war criminals.

Their visit came just one day after the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's leader Shinzo Abe paid homage at the shrine.

The New York Times called the visit by Abe, who could assume the premiership again, "a politically inflammatory step."

"A hawkish opposition leader who could be Japan's next prime minister took the politically inflammatory step of visiting a Tokyo war shrine on Wednesday, raising concerns about whether as national leader he would push a right-wing agenda that could further damage Japan's ties with Asian neighbors when they are already strained by island disputes," the newspaper said in its coverage of the visit.

The paper said such visits had angered China and South Korea in the past, "two victims of Japan's early 20th-century militarism, who view the large Shinto shrine in central Tokyo as a symbol of Japan's refusal to atone."

"The prospect has raised concerns that Mr Abe could once again try to pull his nation to the right, and at a delicate time when Japan faces rising tensions with China and South Korea over territorial disputes," The New York Times said.

Whether Abe as prime minister would take a more confrontational stance toward the rest of Asia has also been a growing worry in the United States, which is bound by treaty to defend Japan, it added.

The Guardian, one of the leading newspapers in Britain, said the visits ignored the sentiment of victims of Japan's aggression.

"The pilgrimages, made to coincide with the shrine's autumn festival, are expected to increase tensions between Japan and China," the paper said, adding that the visits also drew an angry response from South Korea.

"Many Koreans and Chinese view the shrine as a symbol of Japanese militarism, and visits by politicians as proof that Japan has yet to atone for its wartime conduct in parts of China and on the Korean peninsula," it said.

Reporting the politicians' war shrine visit, the French newspaper La Liberation said "Tokyo awakes the crisis with Beijing and Seoul."

Japan's neighbors were "shocked" by the latest visits to the "nationalist temple," the paper said.

The visits showed some Japanese politicians' contempt for the sentiment of China and South Korea, it noted.