WASHINGTON – U.S. officials have reacted negatively to Defense Minister Tomomi Inada’s visit Thursday to a controversial war-linked shrine just after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor with U.S. President Barack Obama.
“We continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a manner that promotes healing and reconciliation,” a State Department spokesperson said, indirectly criticizing Inada’s visit.
Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it regrettable that Inada visited the shrine shortly after returning from Hawaii. She had accompanied Abe, who offered condolences to those who died in the 1941 Japanese surprise attack there.
The Shinto shrine is seen by some regional neighbors, particularly China and South Korea, as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. Both have rapped Inada’s visit.
Abe offered his “sincere and everlasting condolences” Tuesday at Pearl Harbor, while praising the postwar reconciliation between Japan and the United States.
He was speaking in a joint ceremony with Obama at the USS Arizona Memorial, built above the spot where the U.S. battleship sunk in the attack on Dec. 7, 1941, prompting the United States to enter the war.
“Today the alliance between the United States and Japan, bound not only by shared interest but also rooted in common values, stands as the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and a force for progress around the world,” Obama said in his speech.