15 Aug 2010

Far-right politicians visit controversial Japanese war shrine

6:00 am on 15 August 2010

A group of far-right politicians from Europe has visited a shrine which honours Japan's war dead, including convicted World War II war criminals.

The politicians, including the leader of the French National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, were invited to Japan by a far-right group.

Their visit comes on the eve of the 65th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

Visits to the Yasukuni shrine, particularly by Japanese leaders, anger other Asian nations who say the memorial glorifies Japan's imperial past.

The BBC reports that the Prime Minister Naoto Kan has already made it clear that he will not be going there during his time in office.

Mr Le Pen was joined at the shrine by Adam Walker, a prominent member of the British National Party, and other far-right politicians from countries including Austria, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Belgium.

"What counts is the will that we had to honour those who have fallen for defending their country, whether they are Japanese, or any soldiers of the world, we have the same respect for them," Mr Le Pen told reporters.

When asked about the visit earlier, the 82-year-old earlier responded: "If we talk about war criminals, aren't those who bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki also war criminals?"

Mr Walker said he was there to honour "heroes that have died for their country".

The politicians were invited to Tokyo by the nationalist group Issui-kai, which has denied Japan's war-time atrocities.

They have held two days of talks at a Tokyo hotel on how to co-operate to further their nationalist aims.