TOKYO, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that his country's ties with the United States have been unaffected by his widely condemned visit to a controversial war-linked shrine in December.
"The Japan-U.S. alliance is solid and will not be affected by my visit," Abe told an Upper House session, adding that the two sides would actively contribute to peace and stability in the world.
Despite Abe's remarks, the pilgrimage he made to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Dec. 26 quickly drew harsh disapproval from Japan's neighboring countries and the wider international community, including the United States who said in a statement it was "disappointed" in Abe's visit.
Abe's visit caused both domestic and global consternation and the move has been lambasted by the United States who, in an unprecedented gesture towards an ally, said it was "disappointed" that Japan's leader had wittingly moved to take action that would "exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors."
The shrine, which honors 2.5 million of Japan's war dead, including 14 Class-A convicted war criminals, is widely regarded as a living symbol of Japan's brutal militaristic past and visits made by politicians are seen as whitewashing Japan's war-time atrocities and running contrary to the Murayama Declaration in 1995, which is the official Japanese government position on the Asia-Pacific War and apologizes for what Japan itself has described as a "war of aggression."
Abe's offhanded remarks in parliament followed the statement of Ben Rhodes, deputy U.S. national security adviser and an aide to U. S. President Barack Obama, who said Wednesday that Abe should avoid making another visit to the shrine.
According to Japanese media reports, Rhodes said while answering questions about Abe's Yasukuni visit that leaders needed to demonstrate "sensitivity to historical concerns," reiterating the U.S. disapproval of Abe's visit.
Abe's visit marked the first time in seven years a sitting Japanese prime minister has visited the shrine since former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a visit in August 2006.
The administration of U.S. President Obama has said it deliberately chose the word "disappointed" in response to Abe's visit as a senior State Department spokesperson has attested, and U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden reportedly tried in vein to dissuade Abe from visiting the shrine two weeks before the Japanese premier took the controversial step.
In a one-hour telephone conversation on Dec. 12, Biden, according to local reports, "repeatedly urged the Japanese premier to stay away from the shrine," but finally gave up as Abe was adamant he would make the contentious pilgrimage despite Biden's warnings.
Abe's rejection has been described as an "embarrassment" to the White House, which wishes geopolitical tensions in the Asia Pacific region to be defused rather than exacerbated by Abe's benighted political maneuvers.