More than 100 Japanese lawmakers visit Tokyo war shrine

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More than 100 Japanese lawmakers pay homage at the Yasukuni war shrine, risking fresh anger from Asian neighbours that fell victim to Tokyo’s aggression last century.

More than 100 Japanese lawmakers visit Tokyo war shrine

More than 100 Japanese lawmakers visit Tokyo war shrine

/ Tokyo (Japan) – 22 April 2015 08:23 – AFP – 2NDLEAD

More than 100 Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday paid homage at the Yasukuni war shrine, risking fresh anger from Asian neighbours that fell victim to Tokyo’s aggression last century.

A cross-section of parliamentarians paid their respects at the shrine in central Tokyo as part of the spring festival, an AFP journalist witnessed.

A total of 106 lawmakers visited, the group said, however no cabinet ministers were seen among them.

The shrine honours those who fought and died for Japan, but also includes a number of senior military and political figures convicted of the most serious war crimes.

“I feel very grateful anew that we have maintained peace for 70 years,” said Hidehisa Otsuji, a lawmaker with the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who leads the group. “The souls (of the dead) must also be pleased with this.”

China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of what they say is Japan’s unwillingness to repent for its aggressive warring. The United States tries to discourage visits, which it views as unnecessarily provocative.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew sharp rebukes from China and South Korea on Tuesday after sending a symbolic offering to the shrine.

He has not visited since December 2013.

He has also said he may not repeat a formal apology for his country’s World War II rampage in an upcoming statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

The lawmakers’ visit comes as Japan and China are reportedly arranging a meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia, where the two men are attending an Asia-Africa conference.

Local media said the meeting could take place as early as Wednesday evening. The two men met briefly at the APEC summit in China last year, but have never held a formal sit-down.

On Tuesday, Hong Lei, a spokesman for the China’s foreign ministry, cautioned Abe over the symbolic importance of this year’s anniversary.

“The Japanese leader must take concrete steps to honour (the country’s) commitment of looking squarely at and reflecting upon its history of aggression, properly handle relevant issues, and win the trust of its neighbours and the international community,” Hong said.

Abe suggested in a TV interview broadcast late Monday that provided he says he agrees with previous statements, “I don’t think I need to write it again.”

Beijing and Seoul argue that Tokyo has not properly atoned for its warmongering and insist that a landmark 1995 statement expressing deep remorse with apology — which was repeated in 2005 — must stand.

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