TOKYO • China and South Korea have called on Japan to face up to its wartime past after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to a war shrine on the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender.
Mr Masahiko Shibayama, a lawmaker who made the offering on Mr Abe's behalf yesterday, said he did so to express condolences for those who died in the war and to pray for peace. He added that Mr Abe said he was sorry he could not visit the Yasukuni Shrine.
Past visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged Beijing and Seoul because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with other war dead, sometimes chilling ties for months.
China's relations with Japan have long been poisoned by what Beijing sees as Tokyo's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War II. Japan occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945.
Mr Abe said at a national ceremony: "After the war, our country has consistently taken steps as a country that abhors war and treasures peace, and has made efforts to promote the peace and prosperity of the world.
"We intend to keep this immovable policy firmly, throughout the ages, while facing history with humility."
Dozens of Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine along with scores of ordinary Japanese, prompting protests from the South Korean and Chinese governments.
"We express our deep concerns that responsible leaders of Japan's government and Parliament are again paying tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine and visiting the shrine that glorifies the history of the war of aggression," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The number of Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals who are honoured, along with other war dead, at Yasukuni Shrine.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China resolutely opposed Japan's "wrong actions" over the shrine.
"China urges Japan to earnestly face up to and deeply reflect upon its history of militarism," she said at a daily news briefing.
Mr Abe visited Yasukuni in 2013, an action that prompted criticism from key ally the United States as well as from Asian nations, but has since only sent offerings on Aug 15 and during Yasukuni's twice- yearly festivals.