Japanese lawmakers make controversial visit to Yasukuni shrine for war dead

PM Shinzo Abe sends offering to controversial Yasukuni shrine for war dead

Japan's internal affairs minister, who usually visits the shrine during the festival, as she did this year, tried to justify lawmakers' shrine visits and offerings in response to worldwide criticism.

It is widely regarded as a symbol of Japan's 20th century militarism in Asia, particularly in neighboring countries like China and South Korea that suffered heavily from Japanese brutality before the Pacific War began.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent Friday a ritual offering to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine for its annual spring festival, but is expected to forgo a visit in person. Many experts here in Seoul believe that ultra conservative politicians' continual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine along with Tokyo's efforts to whitewash history will remain as an obstacle to the improvement of bilateral ties between Korea and Japan.

Earlier in the day, a group of 90 Japanese lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and opposition paid a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Visits and ritual offerings made by proxy to the infamous shrine by Japanese leaders and officials have consistently sparked strong criticism from its victimized Asian neighbors during WWII, including China and South Korea.

They included Seiichi Eto, an aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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"The way we commemorate (the dead) shouldn't turn into a diplomatic issue", said Takaichi, who has visited regularly.

Abe also sent a ritual offering, the report said.

"The government expresses concern and regret..."

Joining Abe in offering masakaki were Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima, Upper House President Chuichi Date, and Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the minister of health, labor and welfare.

The shrine has always been a source of controversy around Asia because it memorializes not only the nation's war dead but also 14 Class-A war criminals.

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