A Ritual Silence

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent a ritual offering to a controversial World War II shrine in the capital on Monday, a monument that has drawn criticism from Japan’s wartime victims, South Korea and China, the Guardian reported.

The offering was made to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine in remembrance of the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

The shrine honors 2.5 million Japanese soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in wars in the 19th and 20th centuries – but also the 14 men convicted by the Allies as class-A war criminals.

The visits to the monument by high-ranking officials and conservative politicians are controversial because South Korea and China consider the shrine a symbol of Japanese militarism. The Yushukan museum, located next to the shrine, promotes the belief that Japan went to war to save Asia from Western imperialism. The museum makes no mention of Japanese wartime atrocities committed in Asia.

Choosing to avoid the risk of antagonizing both countries, Kishida sent three of his ministers in his place in recent days.

Still, China and South Korea criticized the visits, with Beijing urging the Japanese government to “profoundly reflect on its past history of aggression” and learn from it to win the trust of its Asian neighbors.

Even so, Seoul called for an end to historical tensions between Japan and South Korea, which have deteriorated in recent years over disputes stemming from the war that include forced labor and the sexual enslavement of Korean women by the Japanese army.

Meanwhile, Kishida said during a separate ceremony that Japan was determined to never again wage war, but made no mention of its wartime aggression. Former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who was murdered last month, was the last Japanese leader to visit Yasukuni while in office, drawing rebukes from China, South Korea and even the US.

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