China calls Yasukuni 'spiritual tool of Japanese militarism'

BEIJING, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- China stepped up its condemnation of Japan Monday over visits by Tokyo's cabinet ministers to a controversial war shrine, calling the Yasukuni shrine a "spiritual tool of Japanese militarism."

Two Japanese cabinet ministers and about 160 lawmakers have made pilgrimages to the shrine over the past few days during its annual autumn festival, drawing sharp criticism from both South Korea and China. The shrine honors 14 Class A war criminals convicted by the Allied forces after World War II, along with millions of Japanese war dead.

"The Yasukuni shrine is a spiritual tool and a symbol of Japanese militarism," China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters during a regular press briefing.

"The issue of Japanese leaders' visits to the Yasukuni shrine is about whether Japan could correctly view and reflect on its history of aggression," Hua said.

Hua warned that "If Japan is still hellbent on militarism, then there will be no future in relations with its Asian neighbors."

Visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have prompted regular protests from South Korea and China, which suffered from Japan's wartime atrocities in the early 20th century.

On Friday, China summoned Japan's ambassador and delivered a "strong condemnation" over visits by a Japanese cabinet minister and scores of lawmakers to the shrine.

South Korea also admonished 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 of its history."

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