China summons Japanese ambassador over minister's visit to war shrine

BEIJING, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- China summoned Japan's ambassador on Friday and delivered a "strong condemnation" over visits by a Japanese cabinet minister and scores of lawmakers to a controversial war shrine, an official said.

The summons to Ambassador Masato Kitera came shortly after Japan's internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo and more than 100 lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine during the shrine's annual autumn festival. The shrine honors 14 Class A war criminals convicted by the Allied forces after World War II.

"Vice Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin summoned the Japanese ambassador to China for a solemn protest and a strong condemnation," China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

"The issue of the Yasukuni shrine is an issue about whether Japan correctly views and deals with its history of aggression and colonial rules and respects the feelings of victimized countries including China," Hua said during a regular press briefing.

"The Japanese cabinet member's visit to the Yaskuni shrine is a blatant attempt to whitewash Japan's militarism and its history of aggression," Hua said.

The visit by Shindo occurred a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a ritual offering at the shrine, drawing rebukes from South Korea and China.

Japan's unrepentant attitude over its 20th-century wartime atrocities in Asia has been a cause of its strained relations with South Korea and China.

South Korea also admonished the Friday visits by the Japanese minister and lawmakers to the Yasukuni shrine. Seoul's foreign ministry called on Japanese leaders to win the trust from neighbors through "humble reflection and an introspection on its history."

Hua said Japan could improve relations with its Asian neighbors "only by facing up to and earnestly reflecting on its history of aggression."

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