Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yakusuni Shrine, which honors the country’s wartime history, on Thursday in Tokyo in a move that drew criticism from China and South Korea and even rare disapproval from the United States.
The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese war dead and also some World War II war criminals. It is viewed by Japan’s neighbors as an insult, honoring Japan’s militaristic history.
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“Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors," a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said
. “We take note of the Prime Minister’s expression of remorse for the past and his reaffirmation of Japan's commitment to peace.”
Abe is the first prime minister to visit the shrine in seven years, although he was quoted as saying that he was sorry he didn’t do so during his first time in office from 2006 to 2007.
After the visit, he told reporters that he was paying respect to people who lost their lives for Japan, and said, “I have no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese or the South Korean people," CNN reported
He also said he was praying for souls, not honoring war criminals. “I have renewed my determination before the souls of the war dead to firmly uphold the pledge never to wage a war again," he said.
Abe is a popular prime minister and has made significant economic improvements in Japan.
Both China and South Korea let their anger at Abe’s move be known.
“Our government cannot but deplore and express anger about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine despite concerns from neighboring countries and the international community," said Yoo Jin-Ryong, a spokesperson for South Korea, at a news conference, CNN reported.
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