SEOUL – South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Japanese ambassador to lodge an official protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks defending his Cabinet members’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
The protest was filed with Ambassador Koro Bessho a day after Abe said “my ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation” and that they are free to “pay respects and worship the precious souls of the war dead.”
He also raised eyebrows in South Korea and other countries invaded by Imperial Japanese forces in the past by suggesting that what constitutes an “aggression” really depends on the point of view of individual countries, as there is no internationally fixed definition.
First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou Hyun told Bessho that South Korea “strongly expresses regrets over Japanese government and political leaders’ distorted view of the history and anachronistic words and deeds,” Yonhap News Agency reported.
“It can never be understood how Japanese society puts such a high value on honesty and trust while closing eye and ear to the history of aggression and colonial rule,” Kim was quoted as saying.
Bessho told Kim he would convey South Korea’s position to the Japanese government.
Later Thursday, the spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry criticized Abe’s remarks in a similar tone.
“Japan should behave after clearly acknowledging its misdeeds as an aggressor, and that’s very important to developing relations among countries,” spokesman Cho Tai Young told a news briefing.
Cho added that South Korea has told Japan “of the importance of having a correct recognition of past history.”
The latest visits to the Tokyo shrine, which is viewed in South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, were made Friday through Sunday by three Cabinet members, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, while a group of 168 lawmakers paid homage there Tuesday.
Yasukuni honors convicted Class-A war criminals from World War II along with Japan’s war dead. Repeated visits to the shrine by Japanese leaders have angered China and South Korea, both of which were invaded by Japan during the war.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated that he saw no problem with people paying respect to those who sacrificed their lives for the country.
“Japan, as a nation responsible for peace and prosperity of the region, will aim to strengthen ties with South Korea and China from a broad perspective,” he said. “South Korea and China are Japan’s important neighbors and Japan does not wish that its ties with them will be affected.”
South Korean President Park Geun Hye said Wednesday that a shift toward the right is “not desirable for Japan” because its relations with other countries in the region will become difficult.
“Relations between South Korea and Japan are very important in terms of security and economy, but having a different recognition of the past history will make the wounds of the past history worse and make it difficult for the two countries to move in a future-oriented way,” she said in a meeting with managing editors of media organizations, Yonhap News Agency reported.
“Japan should move along with international society in a harmonious way,” Park was quoted as saying.
On Thursday, the head of South Korea’s ruling party called for a resolution in the United Nations to rein in Japanese attempts to whitewash wartime atrocities, Yonhap reported.
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks that he was doubtful of the exact definition of ‘aggression’ not only pervert the fundamental basis of the U.N. international peace regime, but also revive the specter of militarism. It just astonishes us,” Hwang Woo Yea, chairman of the Saenuri Party, was quoted as saying.
“It is necessary to draw discussions about and a resolution against Japan’s history perceptions at the U.N., which run counter to its charter on peace and security,” said Hwang, who leads a South Korea-Japan parliamentary league.