WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Analysts are warning of a growing chill in Japan-U.S. relations as close political associates of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have repeatedly made "defiantly nationalistic comments," including remarks critical of the United States, The New York Times reported Thursday.
What the paper cited as "one of the most direct criticisms of the United States" came this week, when Seiichi Eto, a ruling party lawmaker and aide to Abe, posted a video on-line in which he criticized the Obama administration for expressing "disappointment " at Abe's December visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the war dead including 14 World War II class-A war criminals.
"It is I who am disappointed in the United States," Eto said in the video on YouTube. "Why doesn't America treat Japan better?"
Abe's visit to the controversial shrine, which has sparked outrage in neighboring South Korea and China, was seen as a turning point in U.S. attitudes toward Abe.
"It was a reminder that he is still trying to push his patriotic remake of postwar Japan," the newspaper quoted Daniel Sneider, an analyst with Stanford University, as saying.
"The Yasukuni Shrine visit, and the American criticism of it, also appeared to unleash the current wave of revisionist statements," the paper said.
Among them, Naoki Hyakuta, an ultraconservative novelist appointed by Abe to the governing board of public broadcaster NHK, said this month that the Tokyo war tribunal after WWII was a means to cover up the "genocide" of American air raids on Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. embassy called the comments "preposterous."
Days earlier, NHK's President Katsuto Momii raised eyebrows in Washington by saying that Japan should not be singled out for forcing women to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during the war, as "comfort women" existed in any country at war.
"Most historians say the Japanese system of creating special brothels for the troops, then forcing tens of thousands of women from other countries to work there, was different from the practice by other countries' troops in occupied areas who frequented local brothels," the newspaper noted.
It said American officials "express frustration" that Abe is not doing enough to allay fears in South Korea and could undermine his own efforts to restore Japan's standing in Asia.
For their part, Japanese officials express their own exasperation that Washington does not take a "clearer stand" in favor of Japan in its territorial dispute with China, and has not rewarded Abe "enough" for his efforts to improve ties with Washington by taking politically difficult steps like pushing to relocate the U.S. base in Okinawa.
"This is one of the most dangerous moments in U.S.-Japan relations that I have seen," the daily quoted Takashi Kawakami, an expert on international relations at Takushoku University in Tokyo, as saying.
"Japan is feeling isolated, and some Japanese people are starting to think Japan must stand up for itself, including toward the United States," Kawakami said.
The analysts see frustrations on both sides as "real."
"In the United States, they reflect an ambivalence toward Mr. Abe, as some worry that he is returning to the agenda he pursued the last time he was prime minister -- trying to revise the country's pacifist Constitution and downplay wartime atrocities in the name of restoring lost national pride," the newspaper noted.