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Abe’s younger brother, a senior vice foreign minister, visits Yasukuni Shrine

Kyodo

Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visited controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Saturday for its annual autumn festival.

After paying homage at the shrine, Kishi told reporters he entered his name in the register book with his official title, as a member of the House of Representatives.

He said his visit to four-day festival, which runs through Sunday, would not impact Japan’s relations with neighboring countries and that he had not conferred with Abe about the trip.

The shrine for some Asian countries symbolizes Japan’s militarism and aggression in the last century because it honors convicted Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead.

Abe told reporters later in the day, “I said in the past that it was extremely regrettable I could not visit the shrine during my previous stint (as prime minister from 2006 to 2007), and I still have the same feeling.”

On Friday, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo and a cross-party group of 157 Diet lawmakers visited the shrine, drawing harsh criticism from China and South Korea.

Abe himself offered a “masakaki” tree traditionally used in Shinto rituals to Yasukuni on Thursday, but did not attend the festival in an apparent bid to avoid further aggravating ties with Beijing and Seoul.