TOKYO (AFP) – Three nationalist ministers in Japan’s cabinet paid homage at a war shrine hated by China Saturday, despite tentative signs of a thaw in Tokyo’s long-frozen relationship with Beijing.
The visits to Yasukuni by three of the five women in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet came as a fourth – the moderate daughter of a former premier – reportedly mulled resignation over a cash scandal.
They also come after what appeared to be a breakthrough in Sino-Japanese ties, with a handshake between Abe and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on the sidelines of an international gathering in Italy.
Abe has set his sights on a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping – his first – when Beijing hosts a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc (APEC) next month, and had been talking up the head-to-head in the hope of bouncing China into the meeting.
But a mass visit to Yasukuni on Friday by 110 lawmakers provoked a rebuke from Beijing.
Then in what has become a standard way for China to signal its annoyance with Japan, official Chinese ships were Saturday sent into waters around islands at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between the two.