S. Korea slams Japan for politicians' war shrine visit

SEOUL/TOKYO/BEIJING, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea expressed strong regrets on Thursday over Japanese cabinet members' visit to a Tokyo shrine seen as a symbol of the country's imperialistic past.

Earlier in the day, three officials -- Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, Keiji Furuya, minister in charge of the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s, and Administrative Reform Minister Tomomi Inada -- paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan's war dead, and includes Class-A criminals.

Thursday was the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

Later in the day, some 100 Japanese lawmakers also paid homage to the shrine.

"It is very deplorable that Japanese leading politicians and cabinet members paid their respects to the Yasukuni Shrine that glorifies the history of imperialistic invasion," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a statement.

"It shows that they still turn a blind eye to the history," he said in the statement titled "Until when do Japanese politicians lock their country up in Yasukuni?"

It is unusual that Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman issued a statement to express regret over the issue when Japan's prime minister and foreign minister did not make their visit to the controversial war shrine.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not visit the shrine this time, apparently mindful of the expected furor his visit would draw from neighboring countries. Instead, he made a monetary offering to the shrine via an aide.

"We urge Japan to be proactive to win trust from neighboring countries by facing up to history with confidence and truly reflecting itself," the spokesman said.

China, which also suffered under Japan's brutal occupation, lodged a strong protest against the visits by senior Tokyo officials to the shrine.

Shortly after the pilgrimages by Japanese cabinet ministers, China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin summoned the Japanese ambassador in Beijing, Masato Kitera, and expressed "strong protest and severe condemnation" over the move, the ministry said in a statement.

It also said the visits "seriously undermine the feelings of the people who are victims in Asian countries, including China."

"Any form of visit by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni eventually glorifies the history of the country's invasion and militarism," the statement said.

South Korea, China and other Asian nations have long resented visits to the shrine because the act is considered to glorify Japan's imperialistic past.

Although Abe stayed away from the shrine, he allowed his ministers to visit there.

Such an attitude by Abe "could neither mend Tokyo's deteriorated ties with Beijing and Seoul, nor relieve tensions in East Asia," Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the state-run Global Times daily.

"The intrinsic attempt by the Japanese cabinet to deny the history of militarist aggression has not changed," the paper quoted Liu as saying.

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