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US urges Japan to improve ties with neighbours after shrine visit

Published on Jan 5, 2014 1:55 PM

TOKYO (AFP) - US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has urged Japan to improve relations with neighbouring countries after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine, an American official has said.

Abe enraged China and South Korea when on December 26 he made his first visit as premier to Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan's war dead including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II.

"Secretary Hagel underscored the importance of Japan taking steps to improve relations with its neighbours, and to promote cooperation in advancing the shared goals of regional peace and stability," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement posted on the US Defence Department website late on Saturday.

The comments were issued after telephone talks between Hagel and Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera.

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