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Japan's PM Abe sends message of support to World War II criminals

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message to an April memorial service dedicated to World War II war criminals, organizers said Wednesday, in a move that prompted a scolding from China.

In the ceremony organized by former Japanese military officers, some 220 people prayed before a cenotaph on which the names of around 1,180 suspected and convicted World War II war criminals are inscribed, organizers said.

They include 14 “Class A” war criminals, who are also enshrined at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, a spot seen in mainland Asia as a symbol of Japan's past aggression.

The service took place on April 29 at a temple in Wakayama prefecture in western Japan, and the master of the ceremony read the message from Abe, an organizer told AFP.

In his message, Abe said: “I express my grief at the death of martyrs ... who sacrificed their lives to form the foundation of peace and prosperity in Japan today,” according to two participants and a report by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

“I pledge to work towards the future harmonious coexistence of human beings, and hope for eternal peace,” the message said.

The ceremony has been held annually since 1994 when the cenotaph was established by Masashi Tsuno, a man arrested in the Philippines on suspicion of war crimes at the end of hostilities, but who was later acquitted.

Tsuno's supporters believe that the punishments meted out by the Tokyo Tribunals in the years after the war represented little more than victors' justice perpetrated in revenge.

Thorn in Regional Relations

Organizer Kazuaki Naka, 75, said the service has been held “to console the souls of war dead, who sacrificed their lives for their home country, whether their executions were fair or unfair.”

Buddhism holds that descendents and those who outlive friends, colleagues or neighbors have a duty to care for the spirits of the dead.

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