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The Japanese Embassy in Beijing was guarded by more police officers and vehicles than usual Thursday, the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, while China's state-owned broadcaster aired a special program urging caution over the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "right turn."
The broadcaster and the official Xinhua News Agency reported in the morning about two Abe Cabinet ministers' visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, seen by some countries as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Although Abe did not go to the shrine in person to avoid escalating tensions with China and South Korea, Xinhua said that the visits by internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo and Keiji Furuya, state minister dealing with North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, "will further harm mutual trust between Japan and its neighbors."
Xinhua also dispatched a commentary, entitled "Irresponsible attitudes toward history jeopardize Japan's future," in which it said that Abe's "nod to the ministers' visits and their recent provocative remarks signals that the current Japanese government has gone too far on the right-leaning road, raising fears among Japan's neighbors about a dangerous revival of its militarist past."
The commentary concluded by saying, "On this special day, Japan must reflect upon its history of aggression, sincerely apologize to the victims of its militarist past, and thus work to secure a peaceful future for the country itself and the region at large."
Yasukuni honors Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal along with millions of war dead. Past visits to the Shinto shrine by Japanese political leaders have infuriated countries that were victims of Japanese wartime aggression, especially China and South Korea.
As of midday Thursday, no anti-Japan protests were seen in Beijing. But three men with a banner saying "destroy Japan's militarism" appeared in front of the Japanese Consulate-General in Shanghai and protested against the Yasukuni visits.
Over the past weeks, Chinese media have repeatedly warned that the Japanese government is increasingly becoming "right-leaning," such as by refusing to face up squarely to Japan's wartime history and making efforts to amend the pacifist Constitution.
The 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in WWII was marked at a time when Japan's relations with China and South Korea have plummeted to the worst levels in many years over territorial and historical issues.
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