04/23/2015, 00.00
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Yasukuni visit, a few hours after meeting between Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping

The sanctuary remembers the fallen of the wars. These include personalities considered war criminals by the international community. Visits to Yasukuni fuel economic tensions and territorial claims. Demands for a "profound apology" to mark the anniversary of the Second World War.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A member of the Shinzo Abe government, Eriko Yamatani, this morning visited the Yasukuni shrine, where the fallen of the Japan are honoured. But the list of the fallen, widely considered heroes, also includes names of people considered war criminals by the international community and especially China. In the past, Beijing has often criticized Tokyo for this patriotic devotion, which they believe could veil Japan’s warlike intentions.

Yamatani’s visit to Yasukuni took place one day after a historic meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping in Jakarta. The meeting aimed to mark a new beginning in relations between Japan and China after years of tension fueled by economic competition and mutual territorial claims.

Abe had asked members of his government not to go on a visit to Yasukuni before the meeting with the Chinese leader took place.

Instead, yesterday, more than 100 Japanese parliamentarians went to the shrine and today Yamatani, who is head of the National Commission for public safety, also visited the shrine.

For the Japanese, the Yasukuni is a symbol of patriotism. "I express my sincere appreciation for the people who have fought and sacrificed their precious lives for the good of the nation," said Yamatani at the end of his pilgrimage, "and I made a promise to increase efforts to build a peaceful nation" .

Shinzo Abe has not gone to Yasukuni since December 2013, but two days ago, before the meeting, he sent a floral tribute at the shrine, provoking criticism from China and Korea.

Honoring the fallen and those considered war criminals is an increasingly sensitive issue in recent months with the approach of the anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Beijing and Seoul are demanding that Japan expresses "regret" and "deepest apologies" for the past aggressions.

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