China voices 'strong indignation' over Japan PM's visit to war shrine

BEIJING, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) -- China expressed "strong indignation" on Thursday over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's surprise visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, warning that Japan "must bear the responsibility for all the consequences arising therefrom."

"The Chinese government expresses its strong indignation over the behavior of the Japanese leader which grossly tramples on the sentiment of the Chinese people and other Asian peoples victimized in the war," China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement, shortly after Abe's visit to the shrine in Tokyo.

China lodged "a strong protest and severe condemnation against the Japanese side," Qin said, accusing Tokyo of "openly challenging historical justice and human conscience."

The Yasukuni shrine honors 14 Class A war criminals convicted by the allied forces after World War II. Visits by Japanese leaders to the shrine have drawn rebukes from South Korea and China, but Abe has become the first incumbent Japanese prime minister to visit the shrine in seven years.

What South Korea and China see as Japan's unrepentant attitude over its 20th-century wartime atrocities in Asia has been a recurrent strain on ties between the countries.

"The perverse act of the Japanese leader cannot but give rise to high vigilance and strong concerns of Japan's close Asian neighbors and the international community over where Japan is headed," Qin said.

The visit by Abe to the shrine came as bilateral relations between Japan and China remain icy over a set of islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by both sides.

Relations between South Korea and Japan have also been strained over Tokyo's repeated claims to Seoul's easternmost islets of Dokdo and unrepentant attitude toward the sexual slavery issue.

In a commentary on Thursday, China's official Xinhua news agency described Abe's visit to the shrine as a "grave provocation that may lead to heightened tension in the region."

"Choosing a sensitive time to visit a highly controversial and notorious place, Abe knows perfectly what he is doing and the consequences," Xinhua said.

"Instead of a pledge against war, as Abe has claimed, the visit is a calculated provocation to stoke further tension," it said.

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