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Remarks on Yasukuni Shrine irk Tokyo's neighbors

Updated: 2013-07-31 10:43
By Zhang Yunbi ( China Daily)

Outspoken Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso prompted discontent from Japan's neighbors on Tuesday with bold remarks regarding politicians' sensitive visits to the Yasukuni Shrine and about the German Nazi regime.

During a seminar on Monday, Aso supported visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war dead, including 14 Japanese class-A war criminals.

He even mentioned Nazi Germany as an example for revising Japan's pacifist Constitution.

Aso said Japan should learn how Germany's constitution under the Weimar Republic was transformed by the Nazis in the early 1930s before anybody knew what was happening.

Seoul also blasted Aso's provocative remarks that link the Nazi regime to its constitutional revision, Yonhap reported.

"(Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe has toured Asian nations that have territorial disputes with China to create an amicable atmosphere for his concept of a 'right to collective self-defense' after winning upper house elections," said an editorial in Seoul-based newspaper Joong Ang Daily on Tuesday.

Aso, a hawkish Cabinet member, said "it is OK to visit in a low profile" when he talked about the shrine visits, according to leading Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun.

"It does not necessarily mean going there only on the anniversary of (Japan's) defeat in World War II, any day (is OK)," he said.

It seems possible Abe and his Cabinet members will visit the shrine on the anniversary on Aug 15, Sankei Shimbun said.

South Korean foreign ministry spokesperson Cho Tai-young said on Tuesday that "it is clear that (Mr Aso's) statement hurt a lot of people", Yonhap news agency reported.

Cho also warned that Japan should maintain "a humble attitude" toward its militaristic past of victimizing its neighbors.

Observers warned that Tokyo will not repair its relationship with neighbors, including China and South Korea, if its political figures continue their radical, right-wing remarks.

Li Xiushi, a Japanese studies researcher at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said "the key is Japan has not shown sincerity".

"Since Abe took office, he has said the door is open, but in fact he has not done anything to ease Sino-Japanese relations. There has been no move," she said.

Reuters contributed to this story.