Yasukuni arson suspect leaves Seoul for China; Abe issues regret

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed regret Friday over a South Korean court’s decision to reject Japan’s request to hand over a Chinese suspect in an arson attack at the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

South Korea “has effectively ignored the (bilateral extradition) treaty, and it is extremely regrettable,” Abe said at a press conference in Ise, Mie Prefecture.

His comment came after the Chinese suspect in the arson attack at Yasukuni Shrine left South Korea on a plane bound for China on Friday morning.

The departure of Liu Qiang, 38, for Shanghai came just a day after a South Korean court turned down a request from Japan that he be extradited to face prosecution for the alleged arson.

Judge Hwang Han Sik of the Seoul High Court was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as ruling that extraditing Liu to Japan would “deny the universal value of most of the civilized countries.”

“The Yasukuni Shrine is the property of a religious group in legal terms but (the court) deems the shrine holds a political symbol where the war criminals are enshrined,” he said.

Tokyo had sought his extradition after the attack in December 2011 caused minor damage to Yasukuni Shrine.

Liu told investigators he also attacked the Japanese Embassy in Seoul due to Tokyo’s refusal to fully acknowledge the females, who were forced to work in military brothels across Asia during the war, noting that among them was his late maternal grandmother, who was forced to work in a military brothel in China.