A visit by Japanese officials to a controversial shrine has inflamed relations with neighbours China.
The Yasukuni site, in Toyko, honours Japan’s war dead. But these include 14 World War II leaders convicted of atrocities.
Japan’s neighbours consider the shrine a symbol of Tokyo’s past military aggression. China asked Japan to “contemplate its history of aggression” and “respect the feelings” of other victimised countries.
Around 160 people – comprising cabinet ministers and lawmakers from Japan’s parliament – visited the contentious site.
But Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, stayed away, instead sending a ritual offering.
Yoshitaka Shindo, Japan’s internal affairs and communications minister, said: “I visited the shrine in a private capacity to pray for those who lost their lives in battle and to make a wish for peace. Also I came to pay my respect to my grandfather who is honoured here.”
Sanae Takaichi, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, said: “Regarding visits by the prime minister, there are countries that criticise his ritual offering.But I believe the only way we can ensure that the visits will not become a problem for foreign diplomacy, is for all of us to continue to pay our respects, firmly, and naturally, it is an issue of conscience for Japanese nationals.”
China and South Korea bore the brunt of Tokyo’s pre-1945 militarist expansion in Asia and criticise visits by Japanese officials to the shrine.
Almost seven decades after the war ended, it appears to be still overshadowing relations.