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China protests visits by Japanese ex-prime minister to war shrine

Abe has appeared at Yasukuni Shrine twice since leaving office

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Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (left) at the Yasukuni Shrine on Sept. 19 (Facebook, Abe Shinzo photo) 

Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (left) at the Yasukuni Shrine on Sept. 19 (Facebook, Abe Shinzo photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China’s foreign ministry protested the repeated visits by former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (安倍晉三) to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war victims as well as convicted war criminals, reports said Thursday (Oct. 22).

For years, visits by prominent Japanese politicians to the shrine have met with strong reactions from China and South Korea, which see the trips as evidence of a lack of remorse for wartime atrocities committed by Japanese occupying forces in Asia in the 1930s and 40s.

On Sept. 19, just three days after leaving office, Abe visited the shrine for the first time in seven years, saying he was informing the spirits of his resignation. Apart from honoring Japan’s millions of war victims, since 1978 the shrine has also included its wartime military leaders.

The visit was followed by one by his successor, Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide (菅義偉), who made an offering at the shrine, Newtalk reported.

The actions of both politicians earned them condemnation from China, where Zhao Lijian (趙立堅), foreign ministry spokesperson, described the visits as displaying the wrong attitude toward history. The shrine is a symbol of Japanese militarism, he said.

However, two days after Suga’s offering, on Oct. 19, Abe reportedly appeared at the shrine again. The government said it had no right to interfere, as it is a question of personal religious freedom.