China protested against a visit by Japanese cabinet members to a controversial shrine on Monday, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the second world war. The visit compounded strains between the two countries brought on by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month. Three members of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet went to the Yasukuni Shrine , which commemorates Japan’s war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals. Kishida stayed away but did make a donation to the shrine, a complex seen in countries such as China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past military aggression. At a separate event in Tokyo on Monday, the Japanese prime minister pledged to never again wage war. “We will never again repeat the horrors of war. I will continue to live up to this determined oath,” he said. “In a world where conflicts are still unabated, Japan is a proactive leader in peace.” But in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Kishida’s offering and the cabinet ministers’ visits once again showed the Japanese government’s “erroneous attitude towards historical issues”. Wang accused Japanese politicians of “distorting and whitewashing” its history of invasion and of violating the 1943 Cairo Declaration, an agreement by the leaders of China, Britain and the United States that Japan must return Taiwan to the Republic of China. “The Chinese side has lodged solemn [protests] to the Japanese side,” Wang said, urging Japan to “deeply reflect on its history of aggression” and “avoid further breaking faith with its Asian neighbours and the wider international community”. An editorial in Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said Asia-Pacific countries had been particularly vigilant since Japan increased defence expenditure, caused trouble over the Diaoyu Islands – known in Japan as the Senkakus – and “colluded with a country outside the region” to stir up confrontation and conflict within the region. Also on Monday, Japan lodged a protest and warned off two Chinese coastguard vessels patrolling the waters near the Diaoyus. The Japanese-controlled archipelago is an uninhabited chain of islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries. This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Japan and, after decades of warm economic ties, bilateral relations are at a low. Beijing now sees Tokyo as a major troublemaker on the Taiwan issue, second only to Washington. Analysts said they expected there to be more conflict in the relationship as Japan moved closer to the US and China maintained its tough stand amid rising nationalism at home. “Bilateral relations were severely affected by Pelosi’s Taiwan visit. With Japan moving closer to the US to contain China in terms of technology, trade and the military, we can expect more conflict to arise between China and Japan,” a Nanjing-based foreign relations expert said on condition of anonymity. China responded to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit with massive military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, including the firing of five ballistic missiles that Japan said landed within its exclusive economic zone, large parts of which Beijing also claims. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles represented “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people”. But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected the suggestion, saying “there’s no such thing as Japan’s exclusive economic zone”. Also on August 4, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi cancelled planned talks with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi in Cambodia over a Group of 7 statement expressing concern about Beijing’s “threatening actions” around Taiwan. The Nanjing-based analyst said China had no incentive to soften its position on Japan in the near term – as long as the deterioration did not have a big impact on the economy. “The current diplomatic stalemate is likely to continue,” he said. New Japan trade minister visits controversial Yasukuni war shrine Pang Zhongying, chair professor in international and regional political economy at Sichuan University in Chengdu in southwestern China, said populism was expected to be a driving force in economic and social decoupling between China and Japan. “Economic decoupling is under way, with Japan and the US working closer to remove China from their supply chains. They are plotting to exclude China from chip technologies and promote development under the Indo-Pacific economic framework,” Pang said. “Japan’s economy is still heavily interconnected with China’s so Japan will not rush to a decoupling. “We will not see Japan as radical as the US, so bilateral relations are unlikely to plummet. However, the decoupling, although carried out gradually, will deal a heavy blow to China.” Analysts said that while China’s top leadership might want to avoid the dire consequences of poor relations, they had been hijacked by rising nationalism and populism at home. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, Kishida’s donation to the shrine was read 140 million times on Monday and attracted more than 11,000 comments. Many users lashed out, with some urging the use of nuclear weapons.