70th war anniversary could present new diplomatic challenges

Japan's PM Abe's visit to Yasukuni a year ago drew swift condemnation from China and South Korea.

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has worked hard to mend relations with China and South Korea since his visit to a controversial war-linked shrine a year ago. Yet with next year marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, friction with the two neighbours could flare up again.

The prime minister visited the Yasukuni Shrine on Dec. 26, 2013, a year after taking office for the second time, provoking outcries in the two neighbouring nations. Beijing and Seoul nervously waited Friday to see if Abe would repeat the visit.

Asked about Abe's plans regarding the shrine at a press conference that day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that "whether he will or will not is his personal choice, and not something to be made public."

His action also disappointed the US The shrine honors Japan's war dead, including World War II war criminals. Abe has not gone since -- not for the anniversary of the end of World War II or for important festivals.

China apparently began planning the next meeting with Japan for the creation of a maritime communications mechanism, designed to avoid unplanned military clashes in the East China Sea, only after Abe stayed away from Yasukuni on Friday, according to a government source.

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