Administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada on Sunday became the fourth member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet to break the taboo of visiting war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, sources said.
Inada’s trip to Yasukuni, which along with the nation’s war dead honors Class-A war criminals, followed those by Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo on April 20 and by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Keiji Furuya, state minister for the abduction issue, on April 21.
The trips have incensed China and South Korea, which view the shrine as a symbol of their immense suffering at the hands of Shinto-worshipping Imperial Japanese forces during the war. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se scrapped plans to visit Tokyo after Shindo, Aso and Furuya went.
On Sunday, Abe said “we will endeavor to improve the Japan-China and Japan-South Korea relationships,” and “deal calmly” with the problems sparked by the mounting shrine visits.
His remarks were viewed as milder than his defense in the Diet last week of his ministers’ actions.
“My ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation,” Abe defiantly told the Diet Friday. “It’s a matter of course to secure the freedom to express one’s respect and worship the precious souls of the war dead.”
Abe apparently softened his rhetoric after the U.S. government conveyed its concerns that East Asia could be destabilized by his controversial remarks about Japan’s wartime culpability, which smacked of rightwing historical revisionism, and by the ministers’ shrine visits.