Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the hated Yasukuni Shrine brought about furious reactions the country’s neighboring Asian countries South Korea and China. Abe is the first PM to visit this said WWII reliquary in seven years.
because of Abe’s action, China’s foreign ministry described the country’s relations to Japan as already bleak even adding that the leader’s visit to the shrine was something beyond bearing.
Yasukuni is the burial place of some 2.5 million war dead among them a number of “Class A” war criminals – Japanese leaders who were accountable for starting and waging WWII in Asia.
According to China’s estimates, about 21 million Chinese were killed due to Japan’s invasion and has charged the country for denying the full intensity of the actions it did during those warring years.
PM Abe’s visit to the shrine, which past Japanese leaders refrained from visiting these recent years so as not to put strain on the country’s relationship with its neighbors, was shown live on television.
He wore a morning suit with a silver tie on his visit, was escorted by a motorcade to the WWII shrine, bowed upon arrival and followed a Shinto priest into the edifice’s inner sanctum.
The Prime Minister, however, defended his action immediately following his visit with this statement he declared to the press:
“Some people criticize 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.”
But the Chinese government was quick to dismiss the defense and in an outburst of statements had summoned the Japanese ambassador to Beijing to be “severely reprimanded”.
“The essence of Japanese leaders’ visits to the Yasukuni shrine is to beautify Japan’s history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry countered.
On the other hand, South Korean president Park Geun-hye is also unhappy with Abe’s recent visit to Yasukuni and stated clearly that “she refuses to hold any high-level summit with Japan”. Even America has expressed its disappointment at the Japanese leader for doing a move that has annoyed its neighbors, thereby, causing tensions to ante up.
It can be remembered that PM Abe was also involved in another controversy earlier this month when he approved Japan’s new five-year defense plan which called on the acquirement of drones as well as amphibious assault vehicles in an effort to strengthen the country’s military which is locked in a continuous stand-off against China over some contested islands between the two countries.
“China is attempting to alter the status quo by force in the skies and seas of the East China Sea and South China Sea and other areas based on assertions that are incompatible with the established international order,” said the document outlining the plan.
This acquisition of war instruments is seen as by many japan’s step away from its post-war commitment to pacifism.
The defense plan, however, will only see a five percent rise on Japanese military expenditures, a modest number compared to the double-digit ramps in the Chinese military’s defense budget.
But this plan still earned a rebuke from China saying…
“[Japan]…continues to deny its history of World War II aggression, challenge the post-war order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimized nations.”
Political analysts see PM Abe’s visit to the shrine as a “reasonable time”; he might already have calculated that with his high ratings in the polls and with the country’s relations with China and South Korea marred with territorial skirmishes, nothing could go worse anymore.
“In terms of foreign policy, this might have been the best timing for him to visit. The relationship with Korea and China is already at the bottom and, in an ironic way, it cannot deteriorate much further,” Narushige Michishita of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo said.
Before Abe, the last Japanese prime Minister to visit Yasukuni Shrine was Junichiro Koizumi. He regularly caused stirs during his years with neighboring nations due to his yearly visits to the shrine in between 2001 to 2006.