TOKYO – A group of more than 60 Japanese MPs visited on Tuesday Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, linked to the country’s militaristic past, and which has been a source of diplomatic tension between Japan and its Asian neighbors for years.
The group was comprised of the delegation from the two chambers of Japanese Parliament, including several deputy ministers, and members from various parties, mainly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the public broadcaster NHK reported.
Official visits to the shrine are a common practice among Japanese politicians, especially during the spring and autumn festivals, and often spark protests from China and South Korea, which suffered Japanese colonial rule until the middle of the last century.
LDP’s Hidehisa Otsuji, vice president of the Upper House, said after Tuesday’s visit that due to the situation in North Korea, he prayed that there will be no new victims from a new conflict, according to NHK.
On the occasion of the shrine’s annual autumn festival in October, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally sent a small tree as a ritual offering to the shrine, which honors all those who sacrificed their lives for Japan between the late 19th century and 1945, although he avoided visiting it.
The last time Abe visited Yasukuni as head of government was in December 2013, which sparked strong protests from China and South Korea and even a response from Washington.
Since then, Abe has avoided visiting the shrine personally, although he has sent offerings for the shrine’s autumn and spring festivals, in what is considered a nod to his more conservative followers.
In addition to all Japanese soldiers killed in the wars, the Yasukuni Shrine also honored 14 politicians and Imperial Japanese Army officers convicted as Class-A war criminals by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, for acts committed during World War II.