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Posted : 2016-12-29 17:01
Updated : 2016-12-29 17:17

Korea protests Japanese defense chief's Yasukuni visit

By Kang Seung-woo

Tomomi Inada
The government strongly condemned the Japanese defense minister's visit to a controversial war shrine, Thursday, describing it as "deplorable."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned a ranking official from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to protest the visit that it believes is an attempt to justify its wartime aggression.

Earlier in the day, Tomomi Inada visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo to pay her respects to the Japanese war dead ― the first time that Japan's incumbent defense chief has ever visited the shrine.

However, Yasukuni also honors 14 Class-A war criminals from World War II, so visits by Japanese government officials often become a source of tension between Japan and neighboring countries Korea and China that view it as a symbol of Japan's past imperialism.

"It is deplorable that Japan's responsible politicians visit Yasukuni Shrine that glorifies its past colonial invasions and war by housing war criminals," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck.

"Unless Japan demonstrates humble introspection and sincere self-reflection on its wartime past, it will not be able to gain the trust of neighboring countries and the international community."

The defense ministry also expressed regret over Inada's act.

"We strongly condemn the Japanese defense minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, given that we have stressed that the two sides should face up to history and build a future-oriented relationship," the ministry said in a statement.

The shrine visit was made one day after the first anniversary of the "comfort women" deal between Korea and Japan.

On Dec. 28, last year, the two nations reached an agreement to end their dispute over Japan's enslavement of Korean women who were forced into prostitution in Japanese military brothels during World War II. The surviving victims, politicians and the people, however, are demanding a renegotiation of the deal or its cancellation, claiming that it fell short of fully restoring the dignity and honor of the comfort women.

In addition, Inada visited the shrine one day after accompanying Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his trip to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where he offered condolences to the victims of Japan's attack on the U.S. naval base 75 years ago.

Abe, who often visited the Yasukuni and drew criticism, has refrained from visiting the shrine since 2013, but he has instead sent symbolic offerings on key memorial dates.

Later in the day, Chung Byong-won, director-general of the foreign ministry's Northeast Asia Affairs Bureau, officially lodged the protest with Kohei Maruyama, a minister at the Japanese Embassy here, after summoning him to the ministry.

The defense ministry also summoned a Japanese defense attaché to complain about the Japanese defense chief's visit.

On Wednesday, Japanese Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura also visited the shrine, which drew a backlash from China.

"We once again urge the Japanese to look squarely at their past and reflect deeply upon their aggression and take a responsible attitude, and make tangible moves to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the world," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

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