WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- Major U.S. newspapers on Thursday published articles saying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine spurs new tension in Asia and further aggravates Japan's ties with China and the Republic of Korea.
Abe's "surprise" and "provocative" visit to the shrine that honors convicted Class A war criminals from World War II also triggered a rare show of disapproval by Washington, causing fresh concerns for the Obama administration, said the newspaper articles.
The visit "raises the prospect of even deeper hostility between an already isolated Tokyo and its neighbors," the Washington Post said in a report.
While suggesting that Abe is "increasingly willing to play to his conservative base -- a group that believes Japan has been unfairly vilified for its wartime past," the newspaper said analysts interpret Abe's move as a strategy in which "he abandons the idea of reconciliation and instead uses the tensions to justify a broad right-wing platform that includes constitutional changes and relaxed restrictions on Japan's Self-Defense Forces."
The newspaper quoted critics as saying that Abe's posture invites a whitewashing of past atrocities, an exoneration that the Yasukuni Shrine has come to represent.
"I think he wants to show the Japanese people that he's a leader who will stand up to pressure from the neighbors," the newspaper quoted Jeff Kingston, an Asian studies professor at Temple University's Japan Campus, as saying. "No more masochistic history to please the neighbors. Japan is, in a sense, deciding unilaterally to turn the page on history."
"The visit seems to make it obvious that Mr. Abe's economic policies were a guise to hide his nationalistic intent," said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"This shows how arrogant Abe is toward the neighboring countries, how unrepentant Japan is about its past war crimes," The New York Times quoted Yang Soon-im, who runs the Association for the Pacific War Victims, as saying.
The Washington Post also reported that Abe's visit causes fresh concerns for the Obama administration, which has encouraged Abe to reconcile with Japan's neighbors.
The visit will likely "hurt Tokyo's ties with Washington, considering how the U.S. has been pushing for Japan to improve ties with its Asian neighbors," said Nakano, according to the Wall Street Journal.
These major newspapers all noted that the Yasukuni Shrine is seen by Asian countries as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
The Wall Street Journal said that in 1978 the Yasukuni Shrine quietly added to those enshrined 14 Class A war criminals from World War II who had been convicted in postwar tribunals by the allied forces. Among them is Hideki Tojo, who served as Japan's prime minister during most time of the war.
Japan's emperors have never visited the shrine since the inclusion of the 14, the newspaper said.