South Korea, China criticize new Japanese PM's offering to controversial Tokyo shrine honoring war dead

Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida drew criticisms from the Chinese and South Korean government after sending a ritual offering to a controversial Tokyo shrine.

A reminder of war: Fumio Kishida, who took office on Oct. 4, marked the autumn festival by donating “masakaki” religious ornaments to the Yasukuni Shrine, which is viewed by many as a symbol of Japanese aggression, reported the Associated Press.

  • The Chinese, Koreans and other victims of war crimes committed by the Japanese military during World War II see the shrine as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

  • This is because Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrined military men along with civilians, also honors its convicted war criminals among the 2.5 million who died during wartime.

  • Critics interpret such observance of officials as a lack of government remorse over the historical atrocities.

  • Yoshihide Suga, Kishida’s predecessor who stepped down in September, also made offerings on Sunday to offer “respect to the sacred spirits of those who sacrificed their precious lives for the country and to pray that their souls may rest in peace.”

  • Kishida did not make a visit in person and kept himself away from the shrine over the weekend when he visited areas in northern Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami.

Expression of disappointment: Foreign Ministry officials from both China and South Korea have publicly addressed Kishida’s offerings at the shrine.

  • A statement from South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, which did not directly mention Kishida, expressed “deep disappointment and regret” over Japanese officials’ visits and offerings, reported Reuters.

  • The agency urged Japanese officials to “squarely face history and humbly reflect” on the country’s wartime history.

  • China's Foreign Ministry directly expressed its thoughts through diplomatic channels, with Spokesperson Zhao Lijian condemning “movements” in the shrine as indications of Japan’s “non-reflective attitude towards its history of aggression.”

  • Japanese leaders have been mostly avoiding the shrine since 2013, when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew backlash from China and Korea following a shrine visit.

  • South Korea and Japan have also clashed in recent years as disputes continue over compensation for Korean wartime laborers and abuses endured by “comfort women,” who were taken from their homes as young as 14 and used for sex by the Japanese military.

  • In 2019, Japan removed South Korea from its trade list, also known as a “white list,“ of favored trade partners that enjoy some export controls, NextShark previously reported.

Featured Image via Arirang News

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