A U.S. government official blasted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday for visiting a war-related shrine saying the act has made recent U.S. efforts to help Japan mend fences with neighbor countries "useless."
The official said Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine despite opposition by China and South Korea has a "negative impact" on bilateral relations between the United States and Japan especially after Vice President Joe Biden visited Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul earlier this month.
Biden met Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun Hye in each country and urged them respectively to make efforts to enhance dialogues and improve relations in the region.
"The (Yasukuni) visit made it useless," the official said, referring to efforts by Biden as well as the U.S. government to ease tensions in the region.
Bilateral relations between Japan and China as well as Japan and South Korea have been strained due to disputes over sovereignty of islets in the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan and interpretation of regional history before and during World War II.
The U.S. government issued a statement soon after Abe's visit to the shrine in Tokyo through its embassy which said, "The United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors."
The strong language in the statement was chosen through prior consultation between the White House and the State Department, a White House official said. Abe's Yasukuni visit by the end of this month been rumored since earlier this year.
Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Yasukuni Shrine since Junichiro Koizumi, who did so every year during his tenure from 2001 to 2006.
The U.S. government judged the diplomatic relations among Japan, China and South Korea have worsened since the time when Koizumi visited Yasukuni, the second U.S. official said.
Asian countries such as China and South Korea which had suffered under Japan before and during the war have asked Japanese leaders to refrain from visiting Yasukuni.
Abe said he visited the shrine to renew his resolve to make sure Japan will not engage in war again and create a world free of war.