Tokyo, Dec. 26: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan visited a contentious Tokyo war shrine early today, provoking swift condemnation from China and South Korea, both victims of Japan’s wartime aggression.
Wearing formal attire and followed by news media helicopters that broadcast his visit live on television, Abe led a group of government officials into the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo to pay his respects. Television cameras were not allowed into the inner shrine.
Abe’s visit to the shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead, including Class A war criminals from the World War II era, was the first by a sitting Japanese Prime Minister since Junichiro Koizumi paid his respects there in 2006.
Among those honoured by the shrine, of Japan’s native Shinto religion, are several who were executed as war criminals after World War II. Past visits by Japanese politicians have angered China and South Korea, both of which suffered greatly under Japan’s empire-building efforts in the early 20th century.
Japanese Prime Ministers had stayed away from the shrine in recent years as the country sought to improve relations with China and South Korea. Abe himself did not visit the shrine during his first stint as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007.