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Beijing has denounced as "greatly ironic" the Japanese defense chief's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which came shortly after she returned from accompanying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his visit to Pearl Harbor.
"This not only reflects some Japanese people's obstinately wrong view of history, it is also greatly ironic given the Pearl Harbor reconciliation trip," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday at a regular news conference.
Hua was asked about Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada's visit on Thursday to the shrine, which honors Japan's 2.5 million dead during World War II as well as 14 Class-A war criminals convicted of plotting and carrying out the war. She said that Beijing would lodge a protest with Tokyo.
The visit came right after Inada returned from the trip with Abe to Hawaii. The two joined US President Barack Obama on Tuesday for the first visit by a Japanese leader and a US president to Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, to commemorate the victims of the Japanese attack in 1941.
The Chinese Defense Ministry also voiced "strong dissatisfaction and opposition" to the shrine visit on Thursday.
"I also want to add that Prime Minister Abe's speech in Hawaii bore no sense of guilt but publicly called Japanese military officers 'brave', " spokesman Yang Yujun said at the ministry’s regular news briefing.
During the Pearl Harbor visit, Abe did not apologize for wartime acts, but just conceded that Japan “must never repeat the horrors of war again”. Yang said, “Peace-loving people around the world should be very alert for such remarks and actions.”
South Korea's foreign and defense ministries also deplored Inada's visit, summoning Tokyo's diplomats in Seoul on Thursday.
Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of international relations at China Foreign Affairs University, said Inada's visit to the shrine right after she returned to Japan is "apparently a deliberate plan" to clarify the Japanese government's real attitude toward history.
"Abe apparently was putting on a show in Pearl Harbor for practical reasons and hiding Japan's own strategic purposes," he said, adding it is an embarrassment for Obama.
Wang Dong, a researcher of Northeast Asian studies at Peking University, said that although Inada's visit came one day after that of Japan's disaster reconstruction minister, it can be considered more serious given her position.
"After the Pearl Harbor tour, Abe is using the defense chief's shrine visit to respond to right-wing forces," he said. "The US has stepped back again and again on the issue of Japan's history, eyeing collaboration with Japan to counterbalance China. Such an attitude is sowing uncertainty in East Asia."