A Japanese cabinet minister and nearly 150 lawmakers have visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine seen by critics as a symbol of the country’s past militarism.
Japan Interior Minister Yoshitaka Shindo along with lawmakers from both houses of parliament made the trip on Tuesday to the shrine in the capital, Tokyo, to commemorate a three-day spring festival.
The minister and lawmakers paid respect at Yasukuni, where Japanese veterans are buried, including senior military and political figures convicted of committing war crimes during World War II.
The move is expected to cause more outrage in China and South Korea. The two countries see the shrine as a symbol of the Japanese militarism of the first half of the 20th century.
The visit came just a day before US President Barack Obama’s arrival in Japan for an official visit and followed a ritual offering sent by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang condemned the Japanese leader’s offering and his ministers’ visits to the shrine, saying it exposed the “wrong attitude of the Japanese cabinet toward history.”
Last December, Abe became the first Japanese premier in seven years to pay his respects to Yasukuni.
China has frequently said that the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni was “by no means a domestic affair of Japan” and reflects the attitude of the Abe administration toward Japan’s colonial rule in the past.
Japan occupied large parts of China and the Korean Peninsula during World War II.