Seven Cabinet ministers went to Yasukuni Shrine on Friday morning to pay homage to Japan’s war dead. One more Cabinet member was expected to visit the shrine later the same day and four other Cabinet ministers visited the shrine before Friday.

Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi was the first minister to visit the shrine Friday when he showed up at 8 a.m. “Today’s peace is based on the precious sacrifice of people who dedicated their lives to the nation,” Koizumi said. “As a state minister and health and welfare minister, I paid tribute with respect.”

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama, Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda and Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka did not visit the shrine to avoid criticism from Japan’s Asian neighbors.

The other ministers who went to the shrine are: Kosuke Ito, director general of the National Land Agency, International Trade and Industry Minister Shinji Sato, Transport Minister Makoto Koga, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Hisao Horinouchi, Labor Minister Yutaka Okano and Jitsuo Inagaki, director general of the Hokkaido Development Agency and Okinawa Development Agency.

Kabun Muto, director general of the Management and Coordination Agency, was also expected to visit the shrine Friday.

Hashimoto’s visit to the shrine in July 1996 angered China, which has repeatedly denounced visits by Cabinet members to Yasukuni as signs of a resurgence of Japanese militarism. Those enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine as deities include executed war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.

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