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Japan’s defense minister visits war-linked shrine after Pearl Harbor trip

Japan’s defense minister visits war-linked shrine after Pearl Harbor trip

Posted December. 30, 2016 07:02,   

Updated December. 30, 2016 07:32

Japan’s Defense Minister Tomomi Inada visited a controversial war-linked shrine in Tokyo on Thursday just one day after accompanying Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a symbolic visit of reconciliation to Pearl Harbor. The show of an ultra-right-wing inclination by a key member of Abe’s cabinet caused doubts over Japan’s sincerity over the Pearl Harbor visit. In particular, the incumbent defense minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead including Class-A war criminals, has drawn strong condemnation from neighboring countries.

“By taking a future-oriented stance, I offered my prayers to build peace for Japan and the world,” she told reporters after visiting the shrine at around 7:55 a.m. She noted that she wrote her name and official title on the visitors’ log – a clear statement that she paid the visit as Japan’s defense minister.

Regarding protests from neighboring countries such as South Korea and China, she said, “Whatever historical view one may have, whether they are an enemy or ally, I believe people in any country would understand the act of paying tribute and expressing appreciation for those who dedicated their lives to their country.”

South Korea strongly protested the visit. Seoul’s foreign ministry and defense ministry issued public statements criticizing Inada. The South Korean ministries also summoned Kohei Maruyama, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in South Korea, and the Japanese military attache Hideaki Takahashi, respectively, to protest.

“The government cannot suppress its deploration over the key Japanese politician's worship at Yasukuni, which glorifies Japan's past colonial infliction and aggression, and enshrines war criminals,” said Cho June-hyuck, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The government once again makes it clear that Japan could recover trust from its neighbors and the international society only when Japanese leaders face up to history correctly and carry their self-examination and sincere repentance into action.”

South Korea’s Defense Minister Han Min-koo told reporters that Japan committed an “act of provocation,” even though Seoul signed a controversial military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo for future cooperation. However, Han said Seoul should not revoke the agreement over the visit because of the pact’s importance in responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com · Soong-Ho Cho shcho@donga.com