Image credit: @w00kie.
Tokyo has claimed that donations by prime minister Shinzo Abe and visits by three cabinet ministers to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine were made in an “unofficial capacity” after China and South Korea lodged official protests.
Hua Chunying made the remarks in response to a question on China’s reaction to Japanese leaders’ worshipping at the controversial shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 leading World War II war criminals.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made donations and three cabinet ministers prayed at the shrine over the weekend, according to local media.
Hua said the crux of the Yasukuni Shrine matter is whether Japanese leaders correctly see and treat the country’s history of invasion, and respect the feelings of the people of China and other victimized countries.
While the prime minister did not personally visit the shrine – which commemorates Japan’s war dead and contains the remains of thousands of convicted war criminals, including 14 Class A war criminals convicted of heinous atrocities against neighbouring countries during the Second World War – deputy prime minister Taro Aso did. Abe himself last visited the shrine in 2012, before his election as premier.
As well as official protests from both China and South Korea, the visits, “official” or not, had the completely unsurprising effect of stirring up tensions in the already East China Sea, proving that anyone looking to Japan for levelheadedness in the face of continued Chinese belligerence will be sorely disappointed.
Government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga also threw doubt on how “unofficial” Abe’s donations were, telling a press conference that they included religious ornaments with “prime minister” written on them.
Japanese lawmakers have cancelled a planned trip to China, after meetings with Xi Jinping were reportedly “too difficult” to arrange in the wake of the Yasukuni visits. Korean officials have also announced that they will no longer travel to a summit in Japan.
Visits to Yasukuni only serve to highlight Japan’s wartime atrocities and highlight the country’s woeful failure to own up to them and abandons any diplomatic cache the country might have in its numerous territorial disputes.
Japanese Diet member Yamaguchi Natsuo pointed out the obvious, that “no matter how you explain it, you can’t avoid the fact that [visiting Yasukuni] has a diplomatic impact”.