Japan PM vows no more war; ministers visit shrine to war dead

TOKYO, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed on Monday, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, that his country would never go to war again, as members of his cabinet visited a shrine honoring the war dead, angering South Korea. China.

Japan’s relations with China were already strained after China conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month.

During the exercise, several missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Read on

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“We will never repeat the horrors of war again. I will continue to abide by this resolute oath,” Kishida told a secular gathering in Tokyo, which was also attended by Emperor Naruhito.

“In a world where conflicts are still unbroken, Japan is an active leader for peace,” he said.

The anniversary of Japan’s surrender is traditionally marked by a visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which South Korea and China consider a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past.

Yasukuni honors 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals, among the 2.5 million war dead commemorated there.

Visits by Japanese leaders angered neighbors who had suffered at the hands of Japan before and during World War II.

Kishida, who is on the dovish side of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), faces a difficult balancing act, hoping to avoid upsetting neighbors while keeping the party’s more right-wing members happy – especially in the month following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kishida sent offerings to the shrine without visiting, the Kyodo news agency reported, as he had done during recent festivals at the shrine.

But unlike his predecessor Yoshihide Suga and Abe in 2020, Kishida made oblique references to Japan’s wartime actions, saying “the lessons of history are deeply engraved on our hearts”.

Despite this, South Korea and China condemned the visit to the temple.

In South Korea, officials expressed “deep disappointment” and regret.

“The Korean government is calling on the responsible people of Japan to face history and show humble reflection and real reflection of the past through action,” a South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement. Read on

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wengbin said Japan needs to reflect deeply on its history.

“Some Japanese political figures repeatedly distort and glorify the history of aggression in various ways and openly violate the Cairo Declaration and other important legal documents that clearly provide for the return of Taiwan to China,” he said at a briefing.

‘Problems for the Japanese’

People of all ages paid their respects despite the scorching sun. At noon, they bowed their heads for a moment of silence as the cicadas buzzed.

“People from different countries can say something, but this is a Japanese people’s issue, so Japanese people must decide for themselves,” said Yuki Takahashi, a 60-year-old office worker.

“It is a day of worship, looking back, reflecting and praying.”

Among those visiting the shrine, as usual, was a small but vocal group of right-wing activists, some dressed in military uniforms and carrying flags. Others released doves as a symbol of peace.

Footage from broadcaster NHK showed several cabinet ministers visiting the shrine early Monday, including Economic Security Minister Sane Takaichi, head of the LDP’s Policy Research Council and key Abe aide Koichi Hagiuda.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno earlier said, “It is natural for any country to respect those who gave their lives for their country.

“Japan will continue to strengthen its ties with neighboring countries, including China and South Korea.”

Some MPs who usually visit together said last week they would not do so because of the coronavirus.

Abe was the last prime minister in recent memory to visit Yasukuni while in office, in 2013, a visit that angered both China and South Korea and drew rebukes from a close ally.

The United States and Japan have become staunch allies in the post-war decades, but the legacy of the conflict remains in East Asia.

Koreans, who mark the date as National Liberation Day, resent Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the peninsula, while China has bitter memories of the 1931-1945 invasion and occupation of parts of the country by imperial forces.

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Additional reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo, Josh Smith in Seoul and Eduardo Batista in Beijing; Edited by Kenneth Maxwell and David Holmes

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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