Japan PM Visits Shrine, Thumbs Nose at China, S. Korea

Both are enraged over deliberate WWII snub

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 26, 2013 7:48 AM CST

(Newser) – Japanese PM Shinzo Abe set off a diplomatic furor today with a visit to a shrine to Japan's World War II dead—including no shortage of war criminals—that has China and South Korea sputtering in rage. Dressed to the nines and appearing on live television, Abe entered the Yasukuni shrine this morning in order to, as he put it, "pay respect for the war dead who sacrificed their precious lives and (hope) that they rest in peace." And seemingly fully aware of the hornet's nest he was kicking, he added: "I have no intention to neglect the feelings of the people in China and South Korea." China instantly deemed the visit "absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people," notes the BBC, while South Korea is expressing "regret and anger."

The US State Department has also jumped in, saying it is "disappointed" with Abe's move, which will "exacerbate tensions" in the region. It's the first such visit in seven years, but what was Abe thinking? NPR thinks the prime minister, a staunch nationalist looking to introduce a "first-strike capability" to his nation's national security strategy, knew exactly what he was doing. An expert earlier this week said of Abe, "What we're seeing is the first move towards Japan really shedding that pacifist post-war stance and taking a much more proactive defensive posture." Another says that with the shrine visit, Abe is "showing he is a tough guy," a move that the BBC says "plays very well with his base." Quartz runs down a list of winners and losers of the visit, noting that "the true implications are likely to play out over a much longer timespan."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, followed by a security police officer, walks at Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to the war dead, in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, followed by a security police officer, walks at Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to the war dead, in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walks at Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect for the war dead, in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walks at Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect for the war dead, in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second from top, follows a Shinto priest to pay respect to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second from top, follows a Shinto priest to pay respect to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second left, is led by a Shinto priest after paying respect to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second left, is led by a Shinto priest after paying respect to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
People watch a TV news program on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's war shrine visit, at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
People watch a TV news program on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's war shrine visit, at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korea's Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Yoo Jinryong speaks against the visit of Yasukuni shrine by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Seoul, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
South Korea's Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Yoo Jinryong speaks against the visit of Yasukuni shrine by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Seoul, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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