Japan lawmakers visit controversial war shrine

A shinto priest (R) leads Japanese lawmakers after their prayer at the altar of Yasukuni Shrine during the shrine's spring festival in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2017
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Japan lawmakers visit controversial war shrine

TOKYO: Dozens of Japanese lawmakers, including a government minister, visited a controversial war shrine on Friday, drawing protests from China and South Korea which see it as a painful reminder of Tokyo’s aggressive past.
Yasukuni Shrine honors millions of mostly Japanese war dead, but is contentious for also enshrining senior World War II military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal.
Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi and 95 other members of parliament visited the Shinto religious facility in central Tokyo to mark the start of a three-day spring festival — roughly the same as last year’s figure.
Lawmakers, mostly conservative, say the pilgrimages are a chance to console the spirits of the dead and pray for peace. But North and South Korea and China consider them painful reminders of Japanese colonialism and invasion during the early 20th century.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul to cooperate in countering the growing security threat from Pyongyang, did not visit the shrine but sent an offering in the form of a sacred tree.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said the visits and offerings were “deeply worrying and regrettable” while China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tokyo should “face up to” its “history of aggression.”
Abe has avoided the shrine since going in 2013. That visit sparked fury in Beijing and Seoul and even earned a diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States.


Britain’s M&S says must accelerate change or die

Updated 2 min 3 sec ago
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Britain’s M&S says must accelerate change or die

LONDON: Britain’s Marks & Spencer said on Wednesday it urgently had to modernize or risk fading away as it reported a second straight decline in annual profit and booked a 321 million pounds ($430 million) charge for a store closure program.
The 134-year-old M&S faces unrelenting competition from supermarkets, fashion chains like Zara, H&M and Primark, as well as online giant Amazon, while efforts to revitalize its business are being hampered by ongoing pressure on UK consumers’ spending power.
M&S reset its strategy in November, two months after retail veteran Archie Norman joined as chairman, detailing a five-year program of store closures and relocations, and moves to make its misfiring food business more competitive.
On Tuesday M&S said it would close 100 UK stores by 2022, further accelerating the plan as it strives to make at least a third of sales online.
M&S, one of the best known names in British retail, said it made a pretax profit before one-off items of 580.9 million pounds ($778.6 million) in the year to March 31.
That was ahead of analysts’ average forecast of 573 million pounds but down from 613.8 million pounds made in 2016-17.
After taking account of adjusted items of 514.1 million pounds, including the charge relating to store closures, pretax profit was 66.8 million pounds, a 62 percent fall.
Turnover was broadly flat at 10.7 billion pounds.
“We have to modernize our business to ensure we are competitive and reignite our culture. Accelerated change is the only option,” said M&S.
Shares in M&S have fallen 26 percent over the last year and the firm is in danger of being booted out of the prestigious FTSE 100 index.
The stock closed Tuesday at 292 pence, valuing the business at 4.7 billion pounds.