China raps Japan for war shrine visit by PM Abe's wife

BEIJING (AFP) - China on Friday renewed its call for Japan to "face up to" its 20th century history after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife visited a shrine Beijing sees as a symbol of Tokyo's warring past.

Mrs Akie Abe announced on her Facebook page on Thursday that she "paid respects" at the Yasukuni Shrine and visited the sanctuary's museum, which its critics say glorifies Japan's actions during World War II.

"My heart aches when reading letters and farewell notes addressed to family members," she wrote. "What was in their minds when they perished in the battle fields?" The prime minister's wife added that she wanted to "do my part for world peace".

"Seventy years since the War. Japan has a large role to play," she wrote.

The Yasukuni Shrine honours Japan's fallen soldiers, but also several Class A war criminals convicted and executed after the conflict.

Beijing's foreign ministry condemned the visit on Friday, with spokesman Hong Lei telling reporters: "We once again urge the Japanese side to face up to, and deeply reflect upon, its history of aggression and make a clean break with militarism."

Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have deteriorated in recent years over territorial disputes and attitudes towards wartime history.

The countries are trying to rebuild ties but China's Communist leaders remain wary of Mr Abe's nationalist views.

A 3,000-member Japanese delegation, led by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's General Council Toshihiro Nikai, is currently visiting China to "deepen mutual understanding and trust", according to reports.

More than 100 Japanese lawmakers went to the Yasukuni shrine last month to coincide with its spring festival.

Mr Abe, who has not visited since December 2013, sent a symbolic offering of a small tree at the time, sparking anger from Beijing and Seoul.