CHINA- China is taking a tougher stance toward Japan, observers said, after a state councilor condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a shrine honoring its war dead, including war criminals.
Yang Jiechi, the state councilor in charge of foreign affairs, said on Saturday in a statement that Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals from World War II are honoured, was a mistake that must be corrected.
Yang is the highest-ranking Chinese official so far to respond to the visit that took place on Thursday.
It is rare for a state councilor to release a statement on the shrine visit issue, said Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
In the past, state councilors and other top leaders would comment on this kind of issue on occasions such as receiving Japanese guests or answering media questions.
"A state councilor issuing a statement reflects China's strong protest against the visit", which was the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister since 2006, Yang Bojiang said.
Yang Jiechi said in the statement: "The Chinese people cannot be insulted, nor can the people of Asia and the world be humiliated. Abe must own up to his wrongdoing, correct the mistake and take concrete measures to remove its egregious effects."
Yang Jiechi said that the shrine visit questions whether the Japanese government is able to repent its militarist aggression and colonial rule.
"We urge Abe to give up his illusions and mend his ways, otherwise he will further discredit himself before Japan's neighbours and the international community," he said.