DAVOS, Switzerland - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday defended his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine as "natural" but said he had no intention of hurting the feelings of Chinese or Koreans.
Abe's remarks came in response to questions about the visit after he delivered a keynote address to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Yasukuni is a memorial to all of Japan's war dead. But it is controversial because those commemorated include a handful of war criminals who were executed at the end of World War II.
As a result, any visit by a Japanese Prime Minister sparks fury in neighbouring countries who suffered under Japanese military occupation, while Japan maintains it should now be recognised as the pacifist, democratic country it now is and allowed to mourn its war dead as it sees fit.
Abe, who visited the shrine in December, said his "praying for the souls of the departed" should be regarded as "something quite natural for a leader of any country in the world".
He added: "I have no intention whatsoever to hurt the feelings of people in China and those in Korea and we believe that Korea and China are very important neighbours and Korea shares the same value system and they are a free democratic country."