Tensions high as Japan ministers visit war shrine

Two Japanese cabinet ministers visited a shrine honouring war criminals Wednesday on the anniversary of Tokyo's 1945 surrender, a move set to inflame feelings already running high over territorial spats.

The visits come as Japan is embroiled in a worsening dispute with South Korea over islands that lie half way between the two nations and as pro-Beijing activists attempt to land on another archipelago at the centre of a row.

Jin Matsubara, who handles the issue of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea, and land minister Yuichiro Hata went separately to Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 2.5 million war dead -- including 14 leading war criminals from World War II.

Visits to the shrine by government ministers spark outrage in China and on the Korean peninsula, where many feel Japan has failed to atone for its brutal expansionist adventurism in the first half of the 20th century.

In a speech underlining the historical hangover, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak called on Japan to face up to responsibility for the women who were forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during the war.

"It was a breach of women's rights committed during wartime as well as a violation of universal human rights and historic justice. We urge the Japanese government to take responsible measures in this regard," he said.

Around 500 South Koreans, including two former comfort women, rallied outside the Japanese embassy to stage their 1,035th weekly protest over the issue, which Tokyo insists was settled in a 1965 accord normalising relations.

Wednesday's protest came a day after Lee said Japan's Emperor Akihito would have to apologise for past excesses should he wish to visit South Korea.

Tokyo rounded on Lee, who had previously been viewed as a pragmatist with whom it could deal.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said his comments on the emperor -- a respected figurehead in Japan -- were "extremely regrettable".

"It is difficult to comprehend why President Lee made remarks like that yesterday," Gemba told reporters, adding Tokyo had lodged a protest through diplomatic channels.

The pilgrimages to Yasukuni were the first on the sensitive anniversary by any government minister since the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.

All three prime ministers since then have asked their cabinets to stay away.

At the shrine, Matsubara told reporters he was there "in a personal capacity" and had used his visit to "remember ancestors who established the foundations of the prosperity of present-day Japan".

Those enshrined at Yasukuni include General Hideki Tojo, the Japanese prime minister who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor and was convicted of war crimes and hanged by a US-led tribunal.

Seoul had on Tuesday urged the ministers not to go to the shrine on the date it marks as Liberation Day, commemorating the end of Japan's often harsh colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Lee caught Tokyo off guard last week when he travelled to Seoul-controlled islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japan.

Tokyo recalled its ambassador in protest and made noises about cancelling planned summits.

Separately, Japan is embroiled in a rumbling dispute with Beijing over islands in an area of the East China Sea believed to be rich in mineral deposits.

A group of pro-China activists from Hong Kong and Macau were reportedly near the disputed islands -- known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, where they claimed Japan's coastguard had fired water cannon at them.

Their voyage is aimed at pressing the Chinese claim to the uninhabited but strategically coveted archipelago.

Some 6,000 Japanese, led by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as well as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, offered silent prayers at noon for the war victims at a memorial ceremony in Tokyo.

Their speeches used tried and tested forumlae for regret, but avoided an explicit apology.

"During the war, (Japan) inflicted significant damage and pain on many countries, especially on people in Asian countries," Noda told the annual ceremony. "We deeply regret that."

Akihito said: "Recalling history, I profoundly hope that the suffering of war will never be repeated. I sincerely express mourning for those who lost their lives on the battlefields, and wish world peace and our country's further development."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Indonesia's Jokowi to speak to attorney general about Philippines death row convict
    Indonesia's Jokowi to speak to attorney general about Philippines death row convict

    Indonesia President Joko Widodo will consult with the attorney general on legal issues surrounding the case of death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, the Philippines presidential spokesman said on Monday. The statement came after the Philippines President Benigno Aquino met Widodo at the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur and appealed for "humanitarian consideration" in the case. Widodo was sympathetic and was consulting with the Indonesian attorney general on the legal issues, he said. …

  • Pacquiao a national symbol of hope in Philippines
    Pacquiao a national symbol of hope in Philippines

    Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao is idolised by tens of millions in the poverty-afflicted Philippines both for his punching power and as a national icon of hope after rising from the streets to the pinnacle of world boxing. Known to his countrymen in the Asian archipelago as "The National Fist", Pacman fights undefeated American Floyd Mayweather on May 2 to decide who is the world's best "pound-for-pound" boxer. To most of the Philippines' population of almost 100 million, Pacquiao, winner of an …

  • Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia
    Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia

    Australia on Monday urged Indonesia to ensure all legal processes have been cleared of corruption before executing two of its nationals, as bribery allegations surfaced regarding their drug smuggling trial. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Sunday evening while Prime Minister Tony Abbott has written to President Joko Widodo to again plead for the executions to be halted. "Bali Nine" drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could face …

  • Pagasa: Drought may worsen
    Pagasa: Drought may worsen

    The drought in 12 already dry areas in the country is expected to worsen as the summer season peaks next month, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. In an advisory, PAGASA said the provinces of Albay, Bataan, Batangas, Biliran, Cavite, Cebu, Ilocos Norte, Leyte, Misamis Occidental, Pampanga, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur will continue to receive “way below” or “below normal” rainfall in May. PAGASA defines …

  • Maximum restraint for Phl troops in West Phl Sea
    Maximum restraint for Phl troops in West Phl Sea

    The military has advised its pilots conducting surveillance in the West Philippine Sea to exercise maximum restraint even if they are being bullied by Chinese troops. Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said all actions of the pilots should be consistent with the declaration of conduct signed by claimant countries. Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the Philippines should remain on moral high ground when it comes to the territorial dispute. A …

  • MMDA simulates rescue march after quake, tsunami
    MMDA simulates rescue march after quake, tsunami

    The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) yesterday led the annual rescue march from Quezon City to Manila, giving rescue volunteers a glimpse of possible scenarios if the metropolis is hit by a strong quake or is inundated by a tsunami. Cora Jimenez, MMDA general manager, said 700 volunteer rescuers walked from the Quezon City memorial circle to the Bonifacio monument in front of the Manila city hall to simulate a response-exercise to a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. Renato Solidum, …

  • Islamic State threatens Mindanao, Phl tells Asean
    Islamic State threatens Mindanao, Phl tells Asean

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario bared yesterday before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reports of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threat to the Philippines through the Black Flag Movement in Mindanao. Speaking before ASEAN foreign ministers, Del Rosario said the ISIS threat to Philippine security is real rather than imagined because of the Black Flag Movement’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. …

  • ‘Chinese reclamation affecting Phl’s energy security bid’
    ‘Chinese reclamation affecting Phl’s energy security bid’

    China’s occupation and buildup of its military structures in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea is causing the country’s top energy official to get the jitters as the encroachment is seen as a huge dent on the Philippines’ efforts to achieve energy security. “It is a concern but if we don’t bring it to the United Nations, where will we bring it? We cannot bang heads with them,” Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told The STAR in an interview over the weekend. The US Energy …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options