Abe's Yasukuni Visit Aimed to Rally Support from LDP Conservatives
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's surprise visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday appeared in part to be aimed at consolidating the support for him from conservatives within the Liberal Democratic Party who helped him win the party's leadership election in September last year. Abe's visit to the controversial war-related Shinto shrine came at a time when there have been no signs of improvement in Japan's relations with China and South Korea.
Since he began his second term as prime minister a year ago, Abe had refrained from visiting the Tokyo shrine, as China and South Korea, which suffered Japan's aggression before and during World War II, regard Yasukuni as a symbol of the country's past militarism. At the same time, Abe has repeatedly said it is very regrettable that he could not visit the shrine while he served as prime minister for the first time between September 2006 and September 2007. Abe, who has been focusing on resuscitating the domestic economy, also sees the need to mend already-strained political ties with China and South Korea in view of Japan's deep economic interdependence with both of them.