Tensions high as Japan ministers visit war shrine
TOKYO (AFP) - Two Japanese cabinet ministers visited a shrine honouring war criminals on Wednesday on the anniversary of Tokyo's 1945 surrender, a move set to inflame feelings already running high over territorial spats.
The visits come as Japan is embroiled in a worsening dispute with South Korea over islands that lie half way between the two nations and as pro-Beijing activists attempt to land on another archipelago at the centre of a row.
Mr Jin Matsubara, who handles the issue of Japanese kidnapped by North Korea, and land minister Yuichiro Hata went separately to Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 2.5 million war dead - including 14 leading war criminals from World War II. Visits to the shrine by government ministers spark outrage in China and on the Korean peninsula, where many feel Japan has failed to atone for its brutal expansionist adventurism in the first half of the 20th century.
In a speech underlining the historical hangover, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak called on Japan to face up to responsibility for the women who were forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during the war. "It was a breach of women's rights committed during wartime as well as a violation of universal human rights and historic justice. We urge the Japanese government to take responsible measures in this regard," he said.