SEOUL/BEIJING – South Korea and China on Tuesday criticized a visit by nearly 150 Japanese lawmakers to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, saying it represents the country’s lack of remorse for wartime atrocities.
The group visit by both ruling and opposition party lawmakers followed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ritual offering Monday to the shrine in Tokyo on the occasion of its annual spring festival.
“It’s deplorable,” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai Young told a press briefing after the visit. “They know well what kind of a facility Yasukuni Shrine is, one that enshrines those who had waged a war and destroyed peace, and that glorifies a war of aggression.”
The shrine honors Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals along with millions of war dead. It is seen as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past, especially by South Korea and China, where bitter wartime memories still run deep.
“It is quite empty for Japan to talk to neighboring countries about the future while paying respects at a place like this,” Cho said.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang used more or less the same expression as Monday, though in much fewer words, to criticize the lawmakers’ visit, pointing out that the shrine is a “negative asset for Japan.”
Qin told a regular press briefing that “the amount of the asset is becoming heavier” after the visit.