In the latest incident involving the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, authorities on Wednesday arrested a Chinese man suspected of starting a fire on the premises, police and firefighters said.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Guo Shaojie, a 55-year-old Chinese man with reported links to a nationalist group, on suspicion of trespassing at the controversial Shinto shrine, which honors convicted Class-A war criminals along with millions of war dead and is often seen by neighboring countries, including China and South Korea, as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past.
Guo, who said he is a civil servant, admitted to police that he had lit a newspaper on fire in front of a gate, in the middle of the site, that leads to the main shrine.
The fire was quickly extinguished before any damage was done to the shrine.
Police were questioning Guo and a woman, also a Chinese national, over possible involvement in an act of arson.
Hong Kong media reported that Guo is a member of a group based in the city that claims the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea belong to China. Tokyo and Beijing both claim sovereignty over the remote islands, which China calls the Diaoyu.
Guo had also been carrying a flag protesting the 1937 Nanking Massacre, according to an investigative source.
Thursday marks the 81st anniversary of the incident. China claims the Japanese army slaughtered more than 300,000 people in the city, while estimates from Japanese historians on the death toll of Chinese civilians and soldiers vary from tens of thousands to 200,000.
Visits to Yasukuni by Japanese politicians have stoked anger in South Korea and China.
In November 2015, a 28-year-old South Korean man set off a small explosive in one of the shrine’s bathrooms, damaging the public toilet’s ceilings, while in December 2011, a 37-year-old Chinese man poured gasoline on a 13-meter-high gate column at the shrine, setting it alight.