Abe's Yasukuni shrine visit "deplorable": Seoul

SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea denounced Thursday the visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the controversial Yasukuni war-dead shrine as "deplorable" and "an anachronistic act."

"Our government cannot repress condemnation and rage over Prime Minister Abe's paying of respects at the Yasukuni shrine that glorifies its colonial aggressions and enshrines war criminals," Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong said in a statement in his capacity as a spokesman representing the South Korean government.

The prime minister's visit there illustrates his erroneous view of history and jeopardizes South Korean-Japan relations, the minister said in a news conference.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Abe visited the shrine, marking the first anniversary of his taking office.

The visit to the controversial shrine was the first by a Japanese prime minister since then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid his respects there in 2006.

"Japan should shed its erroneous awareness of history in which it tries to whitewash its past and glorify past aggressions," Yoo said, adding that "Japan should face up to history and build trust with neighboring countries that suffered Japan's militaristic aggressions and colonial control through thorough repentance and apology."

Seoul's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun also plans to summon Takashi Kurai, the deputy chief of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to lodge a complaint over the prime minister's trip to the shrine.

Another South Korean government official said earlier that the move will have huge diplomatic repercussions for Seoul-Tokyo ties.

The Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which honors many convicted Class A war criminals along with millions of Japanese war dead, is viewed by former Japanese colonial victims as symbolizing Japan's imperial past.

Japanese politicians and leaders' visits have triggered strong reactions from both Seoul and Beijing, which continue to call on the Abe administration to face up to and reflect on its history of aggression.

Ties had already been strained following Tokyo's recently renewed territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

The two countries were reportedly in discussion over a plan to hold vice foreign ministerial talks, presumably in an effort to arrange a summit between their state leaders, but the latest shrine visit by Abe is expected to put the discussions on hold.

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