Singapore expresses regret over Abe's shrine visit

Singapore's Foreign Ministry on Sunday expressed regret over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

"Our consistent position has been that such visits reopen old grievances, and are unhelpful to building trust and confidence in the region," the ministry's spokesman said in a statement.

Tensions in the region have been rising due to the recent series of events, actions and counter-actions taken by a number of different parties, the statement said.

"The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, occurring against this backdrop and at this time, is likely to evoke further negative feelings and reactions in the region," it said.

The statement added that it is in the interest of all parties to "exercise restraint, avoid actions which might further raise tensions, and seek to create an environment of greater mutual trust and understanding."

The last time an incumbent prime minister made a pilgrimage to the shrine was in 2006, when then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited on the Aug. 15 anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II. The ministry expressed concern on that occasion as well.

Singapore was invaded and occupied by Japanese forces from 1942 to 1945 during World War II.

On the first anniversary of taking office, Abe on Thursday visited Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal along with millions of war dead.