Bieber Japanese Shrine: Pop Star at Center of China, Japan Tensions

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 12:34 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Justin Bieber's praise for a Japanese war shrine got the young Canadian pop star in hot water this week after he praised the controversial site that memorializes Japan's 2.5 million war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals.

The controversy began when Bieber posted two photos of the Yasukuni Shrine on his Instagram page describing it as a "beautiful shrine." The images were immediately met with outrage in China, where the war shrine is viewed as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression.

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"I hope this Canadian singer, after his visit, can have some knowledge of the Japanese militaristic history of external aggression and their militaristic thinking," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang later said in response to Bieber's assessment of the shrine, The Associated Press reported.

The sentiment was echoed by an array of other posts from Chinese nationals, prompting Bieber to issue an apology on Instagram on Wednesday that read, "I was mislead (sic) to think the Shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry."

In December, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yakusuni Shrine, which drew criticism from China and South Korea and even disapproval from the United States.

The visit was preceded by an entourage of some 160 Japanese lawmakers that paid respect to the war shrine in October.

"The Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol and spiritual tool of Japanese militarism," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at the time of the visit.

"It consecrates monstrous crimes committed against Asia's victimized peoples, including those in China, by 14 Class A war criminals," Chunying added. "This is a major matter of principle bearing on the foundation of Sino-Japanese relations."

The Yasukuni Shrine is dedicated to all those who lost their lives in service to Japan since the end of the 19th century.

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Among those honored at the memorial are several former Japanese military officers who were convicted by an Allied tribunal after WWII for committing war crimes against civilians in South Korea and China.

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