Japanese lawmakers have visited a shrine honoring military figures convicted of war crimes. The visit comes as Japan plans to hold talks with China and South Korea, countries that have criticized the shrine in the past.
In a move that could cause further tension with neighboring China and South Korea, more than 70 politicians and 90 other government representatives on Tuesday visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which many see as a symbol honoring figures from Japan’s imperialistic past.
The shrine, which pays tribute to Japan’s 2.5 million war dead, has come under fire from Beijing and Seoul for also honoring military and political figures convicted of war crimes during World War II.
Though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not one of the politicians who made the visit, he did send a ritual offering to the shrine on Saturday in accordance with the start of the country’s four-day autumn festival. One of his new cabinet ministers, Katsunobu Kato, also visited the shrine.
Seoul has already condemned the move, according to German news agency dpa.
Tensions run high
The shadow of World War II looms over relations between Japan and its neighbors, with China and South Korea especially vocal about Tokyo’s perceived unwillingness to atone for its actions during the war.
Earlier this month, Japan expressed anger at a UNESCO decision to list documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in its archives. Beijing has repeatedly criticized Tokyo for attempting to cover up its violent track record in China during the war.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has also voiced her anger over the issue.
News of the most recent visit to the shrine comes ahead of a three-way summit between Japan, South Korea and China to be held in Seoul on November 1. It is the first meeting between all three leaders since May 2012.