BEIJING - China on Monday accused Japan's prime minister of hypocrisy and said he would not be welcome in China after he visited a shrine honoring Japan's war dead, the latest sign of worsening ties between the two nations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo had seriously hurt relations between the countries and shut the door for dialogue between their leaders.
"Abe's hypocrisy in his claims of prioritizing relations with China and hopes for dialogue with the Chinese leaders has been fully revealed," Qin said at a regular briefing.
"The Chinese people do not welcome him. Now, Abe needs to admit his mistakes to the government and people of China, cut loose from the past, and make a new start," he said.
Abe's shrine visit and China's reaction escalated tensions already high over a territorial dispute. Relations sank to a new low recently after China announced an air defense identification zone that covers a string of uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.
Tokyo has repeatedly called for dialogue to resolve the islands dispute. But Monday's comments show how the shrine visit has added another reason for China to reject talks between President Xi Jinping and Abe on the issue. Xi and Abe had a five-minute exchange on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Russia in September.
Beijing's remarks add to the steady drumbeat of criticism that Beijing has kept up against Abe since the shrine visit Thursday. China's foreign minister summoned Japan's ambassador to protest, while other representatives from the foreign service and the defense ministry issued scathing criticisms.
Japanese politicians' visits to Yasukuni have long caused friction with China and both Koreas, because the 2.5 million war dead enshrined there include 14 class A war criminals from World War II - national leaders who were either executed or died in prison or during their trials. Japan colonized Korea and occupied parts of China, often brutally, before and during World War II.
"They are the people who masterminded, launched and carried out the war of aggression against China," China's Qin said of the Japanese war criminals. "Their hands are covered with the blood of the victimized peoples. They are fascists. They are the Nazis of Asia."
It was the first visit to the Shinto-style war shrine by a sitting Japanese prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went in 2006 to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II.