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Small fire set at Yasukuni Shrine, foreign couple held

This Oct. 18, 2018 photo shows Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Takuma Nakamura)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A newspaper was set on fire on Wednesday on the premises of Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and police detained a foreign couple in connection with the case, police and firefighters said.

Tokyo police arrested Guo Shaojie, a 55-year-old Chinese man, on suspicion of trespassing at the Shinto shrine. The man told the police he is a civil servant and admitted to the allegation, the police said.

The police are questioning him and a woman who is believed to be also a Chinese national over possible involvement with the act of arson.

The fire was soon put out and there was no damage to the shrine, which honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead and is often seen as a symbol of Japan's militarist past by neighboring countries including China and South Korea.

Guo had a flag protesting the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, according to an investigative source, as Thursday will mark its 81st anniversary.

China claims more than 300,000 people were killed in the city during the incident, while Japan disputes the number of people killed by the Imperial Japanese Army, citing historian estimates that range from the tens of thousands to 200,000.

The media in Hong Kong reported that he is a member of a Hong Kong-based group claiming the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea belong to China and took protest action the day before the anniversary.

Japan and China are in a dispute over the sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled islands, which China calls Diaoyu.

According to the fire department, the newspaper was set on fire at around 7 a.m. in front of a gate located in the middle of the shrine's premises that leads to the main shrine.

Visits by Japanese leaders have drawn outcry from those that suffered under Japanese occupation or colonialism before and during World War II.

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