South Korea slams Japan over war shrine visits

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Friday denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for offering donations to a controversial war shrine that Seoul sees as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past.

"Our government deplores that the Japanese prime minister gave offerings again to the Yasukuni shrine, the symbol of Japan's colonial atrocity," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.

The statement also slammed two Japanese cabinet ministers who visited the shrine, which honours some 2.5 million citizens who died in World War II, including 14 indicted war criminals.

"Japanese politicians should bear in mind that only when they abandon their revisionist attitudes and atone for the country's past can bilateral relations make stable progress," the spokesman said.

Relations between South Korea and Japan - the two main US military allies in Asia - are currently at their lowest ebb for years over disputes related to Japan's 1910-45 rule over the Korean peninsula.

They include a territorial row over a tiny batch of rocky islets and Seoul's demands for further reparations for Korean women - so called "comfort women" - forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese World War II military brothels.

Japan has long maintained that all outstanding issues were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalised diplomatic ties with South Korea. South Korea feels Japan has not gone far enough in expressing remorse for the abuses of the colonial period or in compensating its victims.