NEW YORK – China’s top envoy to the United Nations on Wednesday criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine, questioning the conservative leader’s motives and warning the international community to “remain vigilant.”
“To pay homage to such a place, where the war criminals are enshrined, is a fundamental question bearing on the charter of the United Nations,” Ambassador Liu Jieyu said, noting many Class-A war criminals are enshrined there.
“It all boils down to whether a leader of a country should stand on the side of maintaining the principles and the purposes of the charter of the United Nations or to side with war criminals,” he said.
The Shinto shrine honors around 2.5 million war dead, as well as war criminals, including Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.
Abe’s Dec. 26 visit drew the usual backlash from Asian countries that came under Japan’s wartime aggression. In a rare move, however, the United States joined the criticism, saying Tokyo should improve relations with its neighbors and noting it was “disappointed” by the Japanese leadership’s action that will exacerbate regional tensions.
Liu said Yasukuni “whitewashes and glorifies aggression and trumpets a militaristic outlook of history” and he accused Abe of standing on the “wrong side of history.”
“The question inevitably arises as to what Abe is up to, where does he intend to take his country?” the Chinese envoy added.
“The international community should remain vigilant and issue a warning, a warning to the effect that Abe must correct his erroneous outlook of history,” Liu said, warning that his actions might take the country down a “very dangerous path.”
After Liu’s remarks, Japanese Ambassador to the U.N. Motohide Yoshikawa said Abe’s pilgrimage was “by no means to pay homage to war criminals or to praise militarism.” He expressed the view in an email to reporters and attached a copy of Abe’s statement issued on the day of his visit to the shrine that said he made the visit to pray for peace.