TOKYO (AFP) - Justin Bieber said sorry and insisted he loved Japan and China after he stepped into a bitter fight over history by visiting a controversial war shrine in Tokyo.
The troubled Canadian pop prince posted a snap of himself at Yasukuni shrine on his Instagram account - tweeting the link to his 51 million Twitter followers - with the message "Thank you for your blessings".
The shrine is seen across Asia as a symbol of Japan's perceived lack of penitence for its imperialist past.
An attached museum peddles a view of World War II deemed unpalatable by most mainstream historians, casting Japan as a victim and a frustrated liberator of Asia.
A storm erupted across social media after the posting, with fans lambasting the 20-year-old star for historical ignorance.
The picture was later removed. Around 13 hours after the original tweet, Bieber issued a mea culpa on his Instagram feed.
"While in Japan I asked my driver to pull over for which I saw a beautiful shrine. I was mislead (sic) to think the shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry. I love you China and I love you Japan," he wrote.
The apology came after irate users flooded social media networks with complaints.
On Sina Weibo, one user wrote: "I would like to scold him and beat him like a child." "China should ban Bieber, that would be a sensible decision," wrote another.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang, speaking at a regular briefing yesterday, said he had not been aware of Bieber's visit to the shrine.
But he added: "I hope that this Canadian singer after visiting the Yasukuni shrine can have a clear understanding of Japan's history of invasion and militarism, and of the source of Japan's militarism."