China strongly condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the flashpoint Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo Thursday, saying it glorified Japan’s “history of militaristic aggression”.
“We strongly protest and seriously condemn the Japanese leader’s acts,” Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement immediately after Abe’s visit to the shrine.
Yasukuni is believed to be the repository of around 2.5 million souls of Japan’s war dead, most of them common soldiers but also including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II, who were enshrined in the 1970s.
“The essence of Japanese leaders’ visits to the Yasukuni shrine is to beautify Japan’s history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule,” Qin said.
“It is an attempt to overturn international society’s just ruling on Japan’s militarism and to challenge the results of World War II and the post-war international order,” he added.
The statement came after a Chinese foreign ministry official condemned Abe’s visit as “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people”.
Japan “must bear the consequences arising from this”, Luo Zhaohui, director-general of the ministry’s department of Asian affairs, said in a statement posted on a verified ministry microblog.
He added that the visit, the first by an incumbent Japanese prime minister since 2006, “causes great harm to the feelings of the Asian people and creates a significant new political obstacle to bilateral relations”.
China’s ruling Communist Party seeks to bolster its public support by tapping into deep-seated resentment of Japan for its brutal invasion of the country in the 1930s.
Before and during World War II Japanese forces swept through much of east Asia, where their treatment of both civilian populations in occupied areas and prisoners of war was appalling, with many massacres recorded.
Beijing estimates that 20.6 million people died in China as a result of the conflict.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]