War shrine shows limit in US support to Japan
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a war shrine visit that infuriated Japan's neighbours, in a rare break to usually unstinting US support to its ally.
US advocacy of a stronger Japan - including a more active security role by the officially pacifist country - has been a core principle for Washington in a region marked by the rise of China and an increasingly worrisome North Korea.
But Mr Abe, known for his passionate belief that Japan should take greater pride in its history, defied US admonitions - until now voiced quietly - to stay away from the Yasukuni shrine, which venerates the souls of 2.5 million Japanese war dead.
"Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors," a State Department statement said.