First lady Akie Abe posted a Facebook update on Monday, the same day Japan and South Korea struck a landmark deal to resolve the “comfort women” issue, that she visited Yasukuni Shrine, presumably in the last couple of days.
Noting that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, she wrote on her Facebook page, “There are only a few (days) left for this year. The last visit . . . ,” along with photos of the controversial shrine.
Abe, known as a fan of South Korean culture, did not reveal exactly when she visited Yasukuni. Her Facebook post was accompanied by two photos of buildings at the shrine in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Observers speculated that she was trying to appeal to conservatives who may be critical of the deal struck by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye.
Akie Abe earlier visited the shrine in May and August, both times writing about it on Facebook.
The shrine honors Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes alongside the nation’s war dead and is seen by some countries, especially China and South Korea, as a symbol of the country’s past militarism.
Her husband, who visited the shrine in December 2013 — setting off a firestorm of criticism from China and South Korea and earning a rare rebuke from the United States — made a ritual offering in October, though he did not go himself.
The announcement of the first lady’s latest visit came as Japan and South Korea reached an agreement on the emotional and divisive issue of wartime sex slaves — known euphemistically as comfort women — that has long soured relations.