TOKYO, Aug.15 (Reuters) – Japan will never go to war again, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed on Sunday as he commemorated the end of World War II as members of his cabinet visited a shrine considered to be a symbol of the country’s past militarism.
Almost eight decades after the end of the war, the conflict remains a source of tension between Japan and its neighbors, particularly China and North and South Korea, with the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo a focal point for the voltage.
“Since the end of the war, Japan has always followed the path of a country that values peace,” Suga said in a speech at a memorial ceremony in Tokyo. “We must never repeat the ravages of war again. We will continue to remain committed to this conviction. “
His comments have hardly changed from those of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, at the ceremony last year. Emperor Naruhito once again expressed “deep remorse” for Japan’s wartime past.
Earlier on Sunday, members of Suga’s cabinet, along with Abe, visited Yasukuni in moves that could anger China and the two Koreas. Suga did not visit but sent a ritual offering through his secretary, the Sankei newspaper reported.
Yasukuni honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 WWII leaders convicted of “Class A” war criminals, making it a flashpoint for tension. Koreans still resent Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, while the Chinese continue to resent the Japanese invasion and brutal occupation of parts of China from 1931 to 1945.
Many Japanese pay homage to loved ones at the shrine, and conservatives say leaders should be able to commemorate the war dead. China and the two Koreas, however, have expressed their objection since war criminals are included among those honored at Yasukuni.
The shrine has seen a steady stream of early morning visitors, including families with children and people in military uniform, in the face of persistent rain and a recent spike in new coronavirus cases in Tokyo.
Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi and Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda both paid tribute. Their visits came after Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi visited the shrine on Friday.
“Like any other year, I offered my sincere condolences to those who sacrificed their lives in the previous war and renewed my promise of eternal peace,” Hagiuda told reporters.
Asked about South Korea and China’s opposition to ministerial visits, he said it was natural to pay tribute to those who sacrificed themselves for their country, adding that he hoped for understanding from China’s neighbors. Japan.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his government remains open to dialogue with Japan to step up cooperation while seeking to resolve historic conflicts that have frayed bilateral ties. Read more
As a sign of the shrine’s symbolic power, the China Performing Arts Association has called for a boycott of a Chinese actor after photos of him taken in Yasukuni in 2018 and 2019 circulated online and sparked outrage. Read more
Abe visited Yasukuni as prime minister in 2013, angering Beijing and Seoul and an expression of “disappointment” from the United States. He did not return as Prime Minister, sending ritual offerings instead.
After his visit on Sunday, the former prime minister, who is still an MP, told reporters he was paying tribute to the souls of the war dead.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul and Muyu Xu and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by David Dolan, Kim Coghill and Christopher Cushing
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