Japan's Abe wants to explain shrine visit to China, South Korea

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, on Dec 26, 2013. Prime Minister Abe said on Monday he wanted to meet Chinese and South Korean leaders to explain why he visited a controv
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, on Dec 26, 2013. Prime Minister Abe said on Monday he wanted to meet Chinese and South Korean leaders to explain why he visited a controversial war shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo's wartime aggression. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was keen to hold a dialogue with the leaders of China and South Korea to explain his recent visit to Yasukuni war shrine that infuriated the two countries.

"There should be no preconditions, but leaders should be frank and have talks. I hope China and South Korea will take the same position," Mr Abe said on Monday at a New Year news conference after visiting the sacred Ise Shrine in Mie prefecture, western Japan,

“Seeking dialogue with China and South Korea is extremely important for the peace and security of this region... the door for dialogue is open,” he said.

Mr Abe infuriated Beijing and Seoul with a surprise visit to the controversial Yasukuni war Shrine in central Tokyo on Dec 26, the first by a premier in seven years.

The visit came as Japan’s ties with China have worsened in the past year over their conflicting claims over an island cluster in the East China Sea.

Japan and South Korea are also locked in a territorial dispute, with ties also soured by wartime sexual slaves, forced labour and other historical issues.

In her New Year news conference in Seoul on Monday, South Korean President Park Geun Nye expressed regret over Japan's denial of past history and ruled out any summit with Mr Abe.

wengkin@sph.com.sg