South Korean re-arrested in Japan after Tokyo shrine blast

Jeon Chang Han (centre) is escorted out of a police station in Tokyo on Dec 9, 2015.
Jeon Chang Han (centre) is escorted out of a police station in Tokyo on Dec 9, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A South Korean man suspected of being behind an explosion at a controversial Tokyo war shrine was re-arrested on Thursday (Jan 21), accused of carrying and using gunpowder.

Tokyo police said Jeon Chang Han, 27, now faces a new charge of violating Japan's explosives control law after he was held for trespassing on the shrine last month.

"He allegedly filled a metal pipe with black gunpowder and carried it to a toilet inside Yasukuni Shrine," a police spokesman told AFP.

"He also allegedly blew up the pipe filled with gunpowder in the toilet."

Japanese prosecutors had Jeon arrested in December on the charge of illegal entry into the shrine after a suspected explosion damaged a bathroom there on Nov 23.

No one was hurt, but the incident stretched already frayed nerves in the Japanese capital just days after militants killed 130 people in Paris.

The Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo honouring millions of Japan's war dead, including several senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II, remains a diplomatic flashpoint in North-east Asia.

Visits 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.

Jeon is believed to have initially left Japan after the blast but was taken into custody when he re-entered the country in early December, reportedly carrying 2kg of gunpowder.

The Yasukuni shrine has been a target of occasional attacks by activists in the past.

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