South Korea expressed deep regret and China’s state-run news agency called on Tokyo to repent its wartime past on Monday after dozens of Japanese lawmakers visited a shrine for war dead, which Seoul and Beijing see as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime militarism, on the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two defeat.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering but did not go to the Yasukuni Shrine. Visits to the shrine outrage Beijing and Seoul because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with war dead.
Ties between China and Japan, Asia’s two largest economies, have been strained in recent days after a growing number of government ships sailed near disputed East China Sea islets.
Territory disputes and historical issues also periodically chill relations between Japan and South Korea.
“(We) express deep concern and regret that responsible political leaders … are again paying tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine that glorifies the history of the war of aggression,” South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
China’s Xinhua news agency urged Japan to repent its wartime past or risk steering the country down a dangerous path.
“It’s in the interests of both Japan and its neighbouring countries for the former military power to truly reflect upon its past wrongs,” Xinhua said in a commentary.
Abe has not visited the shrine in person since December 2013, sending ritual offerings instead.
“He told me to come and my visit was out of respect to those who gave their lives for the country,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, an aide in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who gave the offering in Abe`s name as LDP president rather than premier.