Anger spreads in Asia over Abe’s visit to Yasukuni

December 28, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Anger continued to spread through Asia a day after governments condemned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine.

His Dec. 26 visit sparked an immediate reaction from Beijing, Seoul and Washington.

The South Korea-Japan parliamentarians’ union called off a delegation to Japan by senior member lawmakers scheduled for January.

“It is regrettable because we were trying to lay the groundwork for a summit meeting,” Kim Tae-hwan, acting chairman of the league, told The Asahi Shimbun on Dec. 27.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has yet to hold talks with Abe over the two countries’ different interpretation of history and their dispute over the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan.

In many parts of Asia, a visit to Yasukuni Shrine is seen as glorifying Japan’s wartime past because 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined there along with the nation’s war dead.

Abe visited the Tokyo shrine on the first anniversary of his second administration.

Chinese and South Korean newspapers sharply criticized the action on Dec. 27.

The Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, called for banning Abe and other Diet members who visited the shrine from entering China.

In South Korea, many government officials believe that it has become difficult to hold high-level meetings with Japan, which were being arranged for early in 2014.

Park has long pressed Japan to face up to history to build trust with her country. “This principle will be further strengthened,” a government source said.

The ruling and opposition lawmakers have agreed to adopt a resolution denouncing the visit at the National Assembly.

“Prime Minister Abe must understand that he has far more to lose (than gain) by taking an anachronistic right-leaning stance and reviving militarism,” Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said Dec. 27.

His counterpart in the opposition Democratic Party, Jun Byung-hun, also said, “The visit is a provocation to peace in Northeast Asia.”

In a statement, Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent lawmaker popular among unaffiliated voters, said, “I hope Prime Minister Abe will visit parts of Asia where Japan’s militarism left scars, instead of Yasukuni Shrine, and apologize.”

On Dec. 27, protesters gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the Japanese consulate general in Hong Kong, and the Taipei office of the Interchange Association, Japan, the nation’s de facto embassy in Taiwan.

The rally in Taipei was organized by about 50 members of a group that supports the island’s reunification with China.

The participants handed a statement to association officials that described Abe’s visit as a challenge to the justice of history.

No demonstrations were held outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing or the Japanese consulate general in Shanghai, although police were on alert.

A police official in Beijing told The Asahi Shimbun that protest rallies are not allowed.

Chinese authorities are apparently taking a cautious stance on demonstrations because they came under fire over rioting following Japan’s decision to put the disputed Senkaku Islands under state ownership in 2012.

A source familiar with Japan-China relations also said China’s domestic situation could become more unstable if new demonstrations fuel anti-Japan public sentiment.

(This article was compiled from reports by Akira Nakano in Seoul, Nanae Kurashige in Beijing and Satoshi Ukai in Taipei.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Protesters tear photos of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a demonstration in Taipei on Dec. 27. (Satoshi Ukai)

Protesters tear photos of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a demonstration in Taipei on Dec. 27. (Satoshi Ukai)

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  • Protesters tear photos of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a demonstration in Taipei on Dec. 27. (Satoshi Ukai)

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