Japan arrests South Korean man over explosion at Yasukuni Shrine: Reports

Members of a police bomb disposal squad near the site of an explosion at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on Nov 23.
Members of a police bomb disposal squad near the site of an explosion at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on Nov 23. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese police on Wednesday (Dec 9) arrested a South Korean in connection with a small explosion that struck the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo last month, according to reports.

The 27-year-old man returned to Tokyo from South Korea on Wednesday and was arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, according to several reports, including from national broadcaster NHK and Jiji Press.

The shrine in central Tokyo honours millions of Japan's war dead, including several senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II.

Visits to the shrine by senior Japanese politicians routinely draw an angry reaction from China and South Korea, which see it as a symbol of Tokyo's militaristic past.

A Tokyo police spokesman declined to confirm the reports or to comment on the status of the case.

Police approached the man as he arrived at Tokyo's Haneda Airport before arresting him on a charge of illegal entry into the shrine in connection with the incident, the reports said.

The man denies the allegation, according to NHK.

During the Nov 23 incident, in which no one was hurt, a loud bang was heard and smoke was seen rising from a public bathroom on the shrine's leafy grounds.

At the time the shrine was hosting an annual harvest festival that attracted a larger-than-usual number of visitors on a national holiday.

Police found batteries, wire and pipes packed with what appeared to be gun powder, media said. A bomb unit initially rushed to the scene.

Police later said the suspect was believed to have gone to South Korea after the explosion, according to reports.

The shrine has been a target of occasional attacks by activists.

A South Korean national was charged two years ago for attempting to set fire to the shrine, while a man was also arrested in December 2014 for suspected arson there, according to media.