US 'disappointed' by Japanese PM's visit to war shrine

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The United States on Thursday expressed disappointment with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to visit a controversial shrine which honors the country's military dead -- including many considered war criminals.

“Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors,” said a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo's website.

“The United States hopes that both Japan and its neighbors will find constructive ways to deal with sensitive issues from the past, to improve their relations, and to promote cooperation in advancing our shared goals of regional peace and stability,” the statement added. “We take note of the Prime Minister’s expression of remorse for the past and his reaffirmation of Japan's commitment to peace.”

Abe's surprise visit -- his first as prime minister -- to the Yasukuni war shrine is likely to worsen relations with Japan's Asian neighbors and comes amid growing tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over a number of disputed islands in the China Seas.