US urges Tokyo toimprove ties with China and S Korea
US Defence SecretaryChuck Hagel has urged Japan to improve relations with neighbouring countriesafter Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine, anAmerican official has said. Abe enraged China and South Korea when on December26 he made his first visit as premier to Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan'swar dead including several high-level officials executed for war crimes afterWorld War II.
"Secretary Hagelunderscored the importance of Japan taking steps to improve relations with itsneighbours, and to promote cooperation in advancing the shared goals ofregional peace and stability," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said ina statement posted on the US Defence Department website late Saturday.
The comments wereissued after telephone talks between Hagel and Japanese Defence MinisterItsunori Onodera.
China and other Asiancountries say the shrine serves as a reminder of Japan's 20th centuryaggression, and is a source of bitterness between Japan and its neighbours andAbe's visit also sparked criticism from Washington.
During theirconversation late Saturday, Onodera sought Hagel's understanding over thevisit, telling his counterpart that the prime minister had renewed Japan'spledge that it must never wage war again, Kyodo News said citing Japaneseofficials.
Hagel had alsothanked the Japanese government for its efforts in securing approval fromOkinawa's governor to move towards relocating a US Marine Corps air base on theisland, Kirby said.