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Korea-Japan tension rises over history
Publication Date : 08-08-2013
Tension between Korea and Japan is quickly escalating as they gear up to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Seoul and Beijing are heaping pressure on Tokyo officials not to worship on August 15 at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japanese war dead including colonial leaders in charge of massacres, sex slavery and forced labour.
That same day in 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies after nearly six years of war. For Korea, the day marks its long-awaited liberation from Japan’s colonial rule.
Emboldened by a recent election victory, top Japanese officials and politicians have made volatile remarks and endorsed visits to Yasukuni, prompting criticism from around the globe.
Their pilgrimage is seen as proof that Japan does not repent for its imperialist past and atrocities.
Administrative Reform Minister Inada Domomi has received approval for her planned trip to the temple on August 15, Japanese media reported. She was one of the three lawmakers who two years ago sought to visit the Korean islets of Dokdo claimed by Japan, but were denied entry.
Seoul plans to host various celebrations and events around the country. President Park Geun-hye is expected to deliver a speech with messages targeting Japan’s recent worrisome moves.
“Though they have yet to go there yet, I would once again emphasise that no one in the Japanese government and political circles should pay respect at the Yasukuni Shrine,” Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Tai-young said Monday.
Tokyo raised neighbours’ eyebrows again Tuesday after unveiling its biggest warship since World War II. Though technically meant to be a destroyer, the Izumo resembles and could function as an aircraft carrier. It has a 250-metre-long flight deck and is capable of carrying 14 helicopters.
The warship epitomises ongoing shows of force and an arms race in the region, driven in part by a sovereignty dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea.
A sharp spike in its defence budget and military upgrading has intensified calls in Japan for reinforced naval and air forces. The two countries have been sending patrol vessels around the islands for months.
China began operating a Russian-made aircraft carrier last September and is building a new one on its own. But Japan has not sought one as its Pacifist constitution limits its military to a defensive role, one of the driving forces behind Premier Shinzo Abe’s campaign for constitutional reform.
In another move to dampen relations, the Abe administration is reportedly pushing to allow the use of the Japanese military flag, a symbol of its imperial past.
The “rising sun” flag became a source of diplomatic spat last week. After Japanese fans displayed it at a football match here between Korea and Japan, infuriated Koreans unfurled a banner reading, “There is no future for a people that has forgotten history”.
Japanese Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said the banner raised questions about “the nature of the people”, which Seoul’s Foreign Ministry called “rude”.