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Aides give Japan's Abe a headache on history, US alliance

Published on Feb 20, 2014 2:21 PM

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Remarks by aides to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about US-Japan ties and the wartime past are giving the Japanese leader a political headache as he seeks to soothe strains with key ally Washington amid rising regional tensions.

Investors have begun to worry that Abe, who took office in December 2012 pledging to revive the economy, is shifting more attention to his conservative agenda to bolster Japan's military and recast history with a less apologetic tone.

Japan-US ties hit a bump when Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Dec 26, further straining relations with China and South Korea, which see the shrine as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism because it honours wartime leaders as well as war dead.

The visit prompted a rare statement of "disappointment" from the US. Diplomats hope an April trip by US President Barack Obama will help ease bilateral strains and affirm the alliance, the linchpin of Tokyo's security policy.

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