Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make his own decision on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, after an aide to the premier indicated he may go before the end of the year.
“As I have said many times, the prime minister feels deep regret that he was not able to pay his respects during his first term in office,” Suga told reporters in Tokyo today. “In any case, the prime minister will make the decision himself from a broad perspective” on whether to visit, he said.
Trips by Japanese leaders to the shrine, which honors the country’s war dead including World War II leaders convicted as Class A war criminals, spark anger in parts of Asia that suffered under Japanese occupation. Abe has not visited Yasukuni publicly since his election win in December, amid a territorial dispute with China that has prevented the two countries from holding a summit for almost 18 months.
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Koichi Hagiuda said he thought Abe would visit the shrine during his first year as leader. “I believe that he will definitely visit at some point,” Hagiuda said yesterday on Fuji Television.
Abe opted against a visit during the autumn festival which ended yesterday, sending a traditional “masakaki” offering, according to an official in the shrine’s public relations department who asked not to be named because of policy. Two members of the cabinet, Internal Affairs Minister Yoshitaka Shindo and National Public Safety Commission chairman Keiji Furuya, made the pilgrimage and about 160 lawmakers paid their respects as a group, Kyodo News reported.
The Chinese government summoned Japan’s ambassador last week to lodge a protest. “If Japan stayed hell-bent on militarism, then there will be no future for its relationship with its Asian neighbors,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing today.
“We hope that Japan will honor its commitment and statement on historical issues and take concrete actions to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community,” Hua said.
Kyodo reported on Oct. 19 that Abe said he regretted not going to Yasukuni during his first term as premier, citing comments made to reporters. Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother and a vice foreign minister, went to the shrine on Oct. 19, Kyodo reported.
Tensions between the two nations have remained high since Japan purchased three disputed islands in the East China Sea in September 2012. Since then Chinese patrol boats have regularly plied the waters near the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.