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State Department withholds comment on Japan minister's visit to Yasukuni Shrine

The US State Department on Wednesday withheld direct comment on a Japanese cabinet minister's visit to a war shrine honoring war criminals shortly after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor, only saying historical issues should be resolved through dialogue.

Japanese Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura paid the visit Wednesday to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including Class A criminals. It came after Abe visited Pearl Harbor and paid his respects to American war dead 75 years after Japan's surprise bombing of the naval base.

During an address at the USS Arizona Memorial, Abe offered his "sincere and everlasting condolences" to American war dead and said the "horrors of war" should never be repeated again. But Imamura's shrine visit raised questions about the sincerity of Abe's words.

Visits to the shrine have long been a source of tension between Japan and its neighbors South Korea and China. The neighboring countries view the shrine as a key symbol of Japan's militaristic past and have denounced visits there as an attempt to glorify the country's wartime wrongdoing.

Asked for comment on the shrine visit, the State Department only repeated old talking points.

"We continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a manner that promotes healing and reconciliation for all parties," Anna Richey-Allen, a spokesperson for the department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, told Yonhap News Agency.

"We believe good relations among Japan and its neighbors benefit everyone in the region and are in their interests and the interests of the United States. We hope the countries in the region can work together to resolve their differences in an amicable way through dialogue," she said.

Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor was the latest in a series of moves by Abe to strengthen relations with the US Since taking office in late 2012, Abe has done everything possible to help address American economic and security needs in a region marked by China's rise, including expanding Japan's military roles overseas.

However, the Japanese leader has been criticized by South Korea and China for failing to atone properly for the country's militaristic past. The Abe administration has also been criticized for efforts to whitewash the militaristic past. (Yonhap)