South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se has canceled his scheduled trip to Japan this week in protest at visits by Japanese Cabinet members to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine over the weekend, a Foreign Ministry official said Monday.
The official told Kyodo News the visits to the Shinto shrine in Tokyo, which is seen in South Korea and China as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, took place despite Seoul’s request not to do so and has soured the atmosphere for bilateral talks.
Yun had planned to meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during a two-day visit to Tokyo from Friday. The bilateral talks would have been the first since new leaders took over in Tokyo last December and in Seoul in February.
He abandoned the plan, however, after Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as finance minister, and Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals, visited Yasukuni on Sunday to pay tribute to Japan’s war dead, a day after Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo went there.
Although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not visit the shrine, he made an offering to it of a “masakaki” tree, traditionally used in rituals celebrated by Japan’s Shinto religion, with his name written below his title of prime minister.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Monday expressing “deep concern and regret” over Abe’s offering and the fact that incumbent officials paid homage at the shrine.
The shrine, it said, “glorifies Japan’s wars of aggression that caused huge loses and pain to the peoples of neighboring countries and enshrines its war criminals.”
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