Japan to keep explaining Abe's shrine visit to S. Korea: Suga

Japan will continue to explain Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's position to Seoul regarding his recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the top government spokesman said Wednesday, following veiled criticism by South Korea's foreign minister.

"We will explain Japan's way of thinking with patience, while building a cooperative relationship with South Korea," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference. "We have faced difficult problems. But South Korea has been the most important neighbor for Japan," he added.

The comments came after South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se said Tuesday in Washington that it requires "sincere" actions to defuse the tensions in Northeast Asia, apparently pressing Japan to make efforts to that end.

He was speaking at a joint press conference following talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The United States has also urged Japan to improve relations with its neighbors, including China, since Abe's Yasukuni visit angered them late last month.

The Shinto shrine in Tokyo honors Japan's Class-A war criminals including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo along with millions of war dead. Asian countries that came under Japan's wartime aggression regard Japanese leaders' visits to the shrine as insensitive to their historical suffering.

Abe said in a statement shortly after his Dec. 26 visit that he renewed his pledge that Japan will "never wage a war again," adding, "It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people."