Yasukuni-visiting Abe talks peace in Asia with Pope Francis

AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed ways of promoting peace and stability in Asia at a meeting with Pope Francis on Friday, the Vatican said in a statement.

It said the talks made “particular reference to initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability in the Asian continent,” and Abe thanked Francis for his support in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

East Asia is riven with tensions from the Korean Peninsula to the large number of small islands claimed by China. Both Beijing and Seoul were enraged in December when Abe made a visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine. The Shinto facility, which honors Japan’s war dead along with Class-A war criminals, served as the spiritual backbone of Japan’s war effort. Abe said he visited to uphold a pledge for Japan to never wage war again.

Francis will travel to South Korea from Aug. 13 to 18.

Abe and Francis also discussed “Japan’s commitment to cooperation for development, especially in Africa, attention to the environment, and nuclear disarmament.”

Abe gave Francis a mirror with hidden religious symbolism like the ones used by Christians in Japan, who were persecuted between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Japanese Catholics are now estimated to number around 440,000 out of a population of some 127 million people.