BEIJING Chinese newspapers denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, describing his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine for Japan's war dead as paying homage to "devils" and warning that China could crush "provocative militarism".
On Thursday, Abe visited the shrine in Tokyo where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honoured along with those who died in battle.
The visit infuriated China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japanese forces until the end of the war, and prompted concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the North Asian neighbours.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement Abe's visit to the shrine was "not conducive to lowering tensions in the region or to improving relations with Japan's neighbours".
In an editorial headlined "Abe's paying homage to the devils makes people outraged", the Chinese military's People's Liberation Army Daily said Abe's action had "seriously undermined the stability of the region".
"On one hand, Abe is paying homage to war criminals, and on the other hand, he talks about improving relations with China, South Korea and other countries," the newspaper said. "It is simply a sham, a mouthful of lies.
"Today, the Chinese people have the ability to defend peace and they have a greater ability to stop all provocative militarism."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Abe's visit to the shrine "has already attracted the Chinese people's ire and denunciation".
"How can a person who is not willing to face up to their own history, to facts, win the trust of the international community or cause people to believe he has a role to play in maintaining regional and global peace and stability?" Hua said at a daily news briefing.
In a separate commentary published under the pen name "Zhong Sheng", or "Voice of China", the Communist Party's People's Daily said: "History tells us that if people do not correctly understand the evils of the fascist war, cannot reflect on war crimes, a country can never (achieve) true rejuvenation."
The Global Times, an influential nationalistic tabloid owned by the People's Daily, urged China to shut its door to Abe and other Japanese officials who have visited the shrine this year.
"If condemnations are China's only recourse, then the nation is giving up its international political rights easily," the newspaper said. "Ineffective countermeasures will make China be seen as a 'paper tiger' in the eyes of the rest of the world.
"In the eyes of China, Abe, behaving like a political villain, is much like the terrorists and fascists on the commonly seen blacklists."
A survey on China's Sina Weibo microblogging site on Thursday showed that almost 70 percent of respondents would support a boycott of Japanese goods, with many users expressing outrage at the shrine visit. The survey was later removed.
However, the topic was not one of the most talked about on Weibo, with people being more distracted by the latest celebrity gossip and the upcoming new year.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Additional reporting by Hui Li, Huang Yan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)