The new Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, sent this Sunday (17) an offering to the Yasukuni shrine, a place seen by neighboring nations, especially South Korea, as a symbol of the country’s militaristic past. In response, the South Korean government expressed “deep disappointment” in the act.
The temple in Tokyo commemorates 14 leaders convicted of war criminals by an international court, in addition to 2.5 million soldiers killed in conflicts since the end of the 19th century.
Seoul considers that Japan has not sufficiently repented of the crimes committed by its soldiers in the colonial expansion of the archipelago between 1910 and 1945, and each visit to Yasukuni rekindles its anger.
Kishida sent the masakaki tree to celebrate the shrine’s biannual festival, held in spring and autumn. Two ministers also sent trees considered sacred to the temple.
The prime minister was elected the country’s 100th leader earlier this month and called elections for October 31st. Thus, its posture in relation to neighboring nations is being carefully observed.
The last time a Japanese prime minister was at the temple was in 2013. At the time, Shinzo Abe’s visit sparked outrage from China and South Korea and drew criticism from the United States.
This Sunday, Kishida’s predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, was at the scene. He had avoided going to the temple since 2012, when he became Abe’s spokesperson, and only sent offerings after taking over as prime minister in 2020.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country “regrets that Japanese leaders have sent the offer again or repeated their visits to the Yasukuni shrine.”
According to the official, Japanese leaders need to “face history and demonstrate with deeds a humble introspection and their reflections on the past.”