China begins naval exercises as Japan visit to WWII shrine draws ire

Aug. 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM
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BEIJING, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- China began live-fire naval exercises in the East China Sea as Japanese ministers were criticized for visiting a World War II memorial in Tokyo.

China's four-day exercises began Thursday as the Chinese government summoned the Japanese ambassador to protest visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo to nation's war dead, the Financial Times reported Friday.

Separately, China's first aircraft carrier left for a 10-day mission in the Bohai Sea off northeast China.

While Chinese military described both exercises as routine, they surrounded V-J Day, which marks the day when Japan surrendered to the Allies, ending its occupation of surrounding countries, including China.

"With 68 years now passed, the specter of militarism still haunts Japan, threatening China and world stability," said an editorial in the China People's Daily, the government's official publication.

A simmering dispute boiled up in 2012 over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known in China as the Diaoyus and in Japan as the Senkakus. Periodically, Chinese ships and airplanes have made incursions into the area that has been administered by Japan for decades.

On Thursday, South Korea's foreign ministry called visits by Japanese government leaders to the Yasukuni shrine "deplorable" and demonstrated that Japanese leaders are "still keeping their eyes shut to history."

At least three Cabinet ministers and dozens of lawmakers visited the shrine on Thursday but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not participate.

The shrine honors 14 Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes by an allied tribunal, as well as ordinary soldiers who fought in WWII.

Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, and administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada visited the shrine to pay homage, Kyodo reported.

"It is not something for other countries to criticize or interfere with," Furuya said after the visit.

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