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Japanese ministers visit controversial war shrine

#Japanese #ministers #visit #controversial #war #shrine

Two Japanese ministers paid their respects Monday at a controversial war shrine seen by neighboring countries as a symbol of past militarism as the nation commemorates the end of World War II.

Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo honors 2.5 million war dead, mostly Japanese, who have perished since the late 19th century – but it also preserves high-ranking military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal after World War II.

Visits to the shrine by government officials have long angered countries that suffered at the hands of the Japanese military before and during the war, particularly South Korea and China.

Sanae Takaichi, the hawkish economic security minister, and Kenya Akiba, minister for reconstruction in the disaster-stricken northern Tohoku region, paid their respects at the shrine.

Takaichi regularly visits Yasukuni and was close to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose assassination last month shocked the world.

“This year there is war in Ukraine. I prayed that no more people would die in wars,” Takaichi told reporters, saying she expressed her “gratitude” to the war dead honored there.

Trade Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura also visited the shrine over the weekend.

But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October, opted to make a traditional cash offer on Monday instead.

No Japanese prime minister has appeared at the shrine since 2013, when Abe sparked fury in Beijing and Seoul and received a rare diplomatic rebuke from the United States.

Kishida’s office told AFP he made the offer at his own expense and “through an agent in the capacity of the President of the Liberal Democratic Party.”

In recent months, Kishida has been pushing for warmer ties with South Korea, saying the two countries “cannot afford to waste time” improving ties after years of tensions over war issues.

Also on Monday, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attended a national ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.

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