Taiwan activists set fire to big model of Japan's warship

TAIPEI (AFP) - Dozens of angry Taiwanese set fire to a giant model of a Japanese warship in a rally on Thursday after Japanese lawmakers and cabinet ministers visited a controversial Tokyo shrine.

The demonstrators vented their anger outside Japan's de facto embassy in Taipei, burning a model of "Izumo", a helicopter carrier. Japan's biggest warship since World War II.

The "Izumo" was unveiled early this month.

Chanting slogans such as "Down with Japanese militarism", the group accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of trying to expand Japan's military.

In a statement, Taiwan's foreign ministry urged "the Japanese government and some political figures to learn from the lessons of history and refrain from doing anything that hurt the feelings of people in the neighbouring countries".

Japan's conservative prime minister broke with two decades of tradition on Thursday by omitting any expression of remorse over the country's past aggression in Asia on the anniversary of its World War II surrender.

Mr Abe's speech - which came after nearly 100 lawmakers including two cabinet ministers visited the Yasukuni war shrine - avoided typical words such as "profound remorse" and "sincere mourning" used by his predecessors to atone for those who suffered as the Imperial Japanese Army stormed across East Asia.

Taiwan was colonised by Japan for half a century until 1945 when Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.

Taiwan has ruled itself after it split with the Chinese mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war. But China still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting to be reunified - by force if necessary.

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