TOKYO: Japan’s premier Fumio Kishida vowed to never again wage war on the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender while members of his Cabinet visited a controversial shrine to mark the date, angering South Korea and China.
With the Yasukuni Shrine seen as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, Tokyo’s ties with China are already strained this year after Beijing conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following the visit there by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month.
During the drills, several missiles fell in waters inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The anniversary commemoration’s links to Yasukuni, a site that honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, as well as war dead, saw Kishida face a tricky balancing act yesterday.
On the dovish side of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), his task was to avoid irking international neighbours while still keeping happy the more right-wing members of the party – particularly after the killing of former premier Shinzo Abe last month.
Kishida sent an offering to the central Tokyo shrine without visiting, Kyodo news agency reported.
“We will never again repeat the horrors of war. I will continue to live up to this determined oath,” Kishida told a secular gathering elsewhere in Tokyo, also attended by Emperor Naruhito.
In South Korea, official reaction was swift, with officials expressing “deep disappointment” and regret.
“The Korean government is urging Japan’s people to face history and show humble reflection on the past through action,” a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
China’s embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that China was “extremely dissatisfied” with Japan’s behaviour regarding Yasukuni.
“Japan must learn from history, understand and reflect on its history of aggression, and draw a line to win the trust of the international community,” it said. — Reuters