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  • Japan's Emperor Akihito (R) looks on as PM Abe bows to an altar for the war dead marking the 72nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in WWII.

    Japan's Emperor Akihito (R) looks on as PM Abe bows to an altar for the war dead marking the 72nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in WWII. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 August 2017

On Tuesday, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said Abe sent a cash donation to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Japan is marking the 72nd anniversary of the country's surrender in World War II on August 15, 1945. The official annual ceremony commemorating the end of the war was attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as Emperor Akihito.

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"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," Abe said at the national ceremony to honor war dead.

"We intend to keep this immovable policy firmly, throughout the ages, while facing history with humility," he added.

On Tuesday, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said Abe, who did not make an appearance, sent a cash donation – in the capacity as leader of the party – to controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Masahiko Shibayama, an aide to Abe, made the donation on his behalf. The donation, Shibayama said, came from Abe's personal funds, according to Nippon TV.

"Upon direction from (LDP) President Abe, I offered my condolences to the ancestors who sacrificed their lives in the war and reaffirmed my commitment to eternal peace," the aide told reporters.

A Shinto priest (R) leads a group of lawmakers at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, on October 18, 2016. Photo: AFP FILE

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahisa Sato, an LDP member, and more than 60 lawmakers, led by former health minister Hidehisa Otsuji, visited the shrine. 

Former Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi was among a group of 55 LDP lawmakers. In addition, three members of the Democratic Party, two members of the Japan Innovation Party and one member of the Party for Japanese Kokoro were also in attendance.

Ex-Defense Minister Tomomi Inada visited separately from the group.

Abe's only visit as prime minister ruffled feathers in China and South Korea and the United States. The prime minister, who has expressed the desire to see Japan's pacifist constitution amended, last visited the shrine in December 2013.

A crowd at the Yasukuni Shrine. Photo: AFP

Tokyo has actively pursued alliances with Beijing and Seoul regarding North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. As recent as last week, Pyongyang threatened to test-fire missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, following U.S. President Donald Trump's promise of "fire and fury".

But, in a late twist, North Korea President Kim Jong-un said he will delay plans to launch the missile.

The shrine commemorates millions of Japanese war dead. But receives significant criticism for also enshrining senior military and political figures who have been convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal.

As the country marks the anniversary of its defeat in World War II, several lawmakers flock to the shrine, notably LDP member and former defense minister Tomomi Inada.

Some conservative officials say the pilgrimages to the shrine are a chance to console the spirits of the dead and pray for peace. But North and South Korea and China consider them painful reminders of Japanese colonialism and invasion during the early 20th century.

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