Japan's Abe Visits Controversial War Shrine
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has paid respects at a Tokyo war shrine that many of Japan's neighbors see as a symbol of its militaristic past.
The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister since 2006, was quickly condemned by South Korea and China, both victims of imperialist Japan's aggression.
Mr. Abe downplayed the political impact of the Thursday visit, saying it was not meant to hurt the feelings of Japan's neighbors, but was a sign of respect for his country's war dead.
The Shinto shrine honors Japan's nearly 2.5 million war dead, including 14 convicted World War II war criminals.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang immediately slammed Mr. Abe's visit as "absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people" and demanded Tokyo "reflect on its history of aggression."
The Xinhua news agency also said China will "make solemn representations" in Beijing and Tokyo on Thursday to protest the visit.
South Korea's minister of culture, sports and tourism, Yoo Jinryong, labeled the move as "anachronistic" and said it will hurt South Korea-Japan ties.
The U.S., a strong ally of Tokyo, said in a statement via its embassy in Japan that it is "disappointed" the country's leaders have undertaken an action that will "exacerbate tensions" with its neighbors.
Amid Clashes, Thailand's Election Commission Calls for Delay in Vote
Thailand's election commission has requested the indefinite postponement of an early vote, which was called for by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as a way out of the country's political crisis, which turned violent again Thursday.
In a statement, the commission cited a lack of peace between the government and protesters, who for weeks have demanded that Prime Minister Yingluck step down and hand power to an unelected council.
Earlier Thursday, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at anti-government protesters who were trying to disrupt election preparations.
The clashes began after protesters ignored police warnings and stormed a sports stadium in Bangkok where officials were registering candidates for the scheduled February 2 vote.
The protesters hurled rocks at police, but later withdrew and the election preparations continued as usual. Officials said at least 32 protesters were hurt during the incident.
Police spokesman Piya Uthayo said three policemen also were injured.