Visits to Japan’s War Memorial Shrine Irk Asian Neighbors

By:  Warren Mass
04/26/2013
       
Visits to Japan’s War Memorial Shrine Irk Asian Neighbors

Visits made by Japanese cabinet members this past weekend to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo proved to be highly controversial.

Visits made by several members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet to the Yasukuni Shrine (shown in photo) in Tokyo this past weekend proved to be highly controversial this week, as leaders in other Asian nations criticized the visits because the remains of persons convicted by Allied military tribunals as war criminals are enshrined there.

The Shinto shrine, dedicated to those who lost their lives while serving Japan, lists the names of 2,466,532 men, women, and children who died defending the Japanese Empire from the Boshin War of 1867 through World War II. The controversy stems from the enshrinement at Yasukuni of 1,068 Class-B and Class-C war criminals and 14 Class-A war criminals who were executed and sentenced to death by Allied military tribunals. Since the sole requirement for being enshrined there is to have died in the service of the Empire of Japan, the priesthood that directs the shrine did not exclude anyone based on their conviction for crimes. 

Three Cabinet members, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, visited the shrine over the weekend, while a group of 168 lawmakers paid their respects there on Tuesday.

The visits to the shrine were strongly criticized by spokesmen from China and South Korea, whose Foreign Ministry summoned Japan's Ambassador to South Korea Koro Bessho, reported Japan Times. The objection from Seoul was made in response to a statement from Prime Minister Abe, who said “my ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation” and are free to “pay respects and worship the precious souls of the war dead.”

Leaders in South Korea and other Asian nations, including China, also took issue with Abe’s assertion that what constitutes “aggression” depends on the point of view of individual countries, as there is no internationally fixed definition, noted the Times.

Seoul’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou Hyun told Ambassador Bessho that South Korea “strongly expresses regrets over Japanese government and political leaders’ distorted view of the history and anachronistic words and deeds,” South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

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