Japanese lawmakers visit Yasukuni Shrine
Updated: 2014-04-22 09:48
A group of lawmakers are led by a Shinto priest as they visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo April 22, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]
TOKYO - About 150 Japanese lawmakers from a nonpartisan group on Tuesday morning visited the notorious Yasukuni Shrine during the spring festival.
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The lawmakers included members from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Restoration Party. During the same period of last year, 168 lawmakers paid visit to the shrine, the highest number since 1989.
The notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead including 14 Class-A convicted WWII criminals, is seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Keiji Furuya, chairman of Japan's National Public Safety Commission, on Sunday visited the shrine while Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura sent an offering on Monday.
Since Abe's administration launched in December 2012, the prime minister has not refrained his cabinet members from visiting the shrine and he himself also visited Yasukuni on the first anniversary of the launch of his government on Dec. 26, 2013.
The frequent visits to the shrine by Japnese leaders, cabinet ministers and lawmakers have become a major obstacle in mending the relations between Japan and its neighboring countries which suffered under the Japanese aggression during the war.
Relations between Japan and neighboring China and South Korea have frayed due to not only territorial disputes, but also Japan' s attitude toward its wartime history, including the Yasukuni issue.
China and South Korea have urged Japan to face up to its past wartime history and maintain a correct attitude toward the history rather than trying to whitewash its aggression past.
China lodged a protest with Japan on Monday shortly after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering.
"The Japanese leader's presentation of an offering to the Yasukuni shrine and visits by Japanese cabinet ministers to the Yasukuni shrine reflect the erroneous attitude toward history adopted by Japan's incumbent cabinet," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.
"I also want to point out that the issue of the Yasukuni shrine is something that always jeopardizes the relationship between Japan and its Asian neighbors," Qin said, adding "The Yasukuni shrine is a negative asset for Japan."
South Korea's Foreign Ministry also responded angrily.
"We deplore the fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has romanticized Japanese colonialism and its war of aggression by paying tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine," it said in a statement, noting it had happened despite expressions of concern from the international community.