China 'gravely concerned' by Japanese MPs' visit to controversial Yasukuni war shrine

A wooden sign (left) which reads "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe" is seen on a ritual offering, a masakaki tree, from the prime minister to the Yasukuni Shrine, inside the main shrine as a visitor prays at the front shrine in Tokyo, Japan on Oct 17, 2014.
A wooden sign (left) which reads "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe" is seen on a ritual offering, a masakaki tree, from the prime minister to the Yasukuni Shrine, inside the main shrine as a visitor prays at the front shrine in Tokyo, Japan on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing on Friday strongly condemned a visit by more than 100 Japanese lawmakers to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo, saying the move would ratchet up tensions between the Asian giants.

"China is gravely concerned and firmly opposes the negative activities in Japan surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement. "China would like to reiterate that Sino-Japan relations can only realise healthy and stable development when Japan seriously faces up to and repents of its aggressive past and disassociates itself with militarism."

"We urge the Japanese side to deal with relevant issues in a responsible manner, stand behind the positions and commitments it has made so far over historical issues and win the trust from its Asian neighbours and international community with concrete actions."

The 145-year-old Shinto shrine honours some 2.5 million citizens who died in World War II and other conflicts. But it is highly controversial because a number of executed Class A war criminals are included, such as General Hideki Tojo, who authorised the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who infuriated Beijing and Seoul by visiting the shrine in December last year, is thought unlikely to go after he returns home on Saturday from an Asia-Europe summit in Italy.

He sent a ritual donation to the shrine instead, media reports said.