Su Chin-chiang, a Taiwanese member of a proindependence party who visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine earlier this week, said the Class-A war criminals enshrined there have paid for their crimes with their deaths.

Su made the remark Monday in Tokyo, hours after visiting the shrine. He is chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, an opposition party and occasional strategic partner of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“The purpose (of visiting Yasukuni) was to express my respect for the sense of loyalty of the people who sacrificed themselves for their country,” Su said.

“Enshrined at Yasukuni are not only Japanese, but also about 28,000 people from Taiwan who died in war, including my relatives, and I paid homage to their spirits as leader of a political party,” the 52-year-old lawmaker said.

He said he would inform former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, whose older brother is among those enshrined at Yasukuni, about his visit to the Shinto shrine.

He said he did not tell Lee beforehand that he intended to make the visit.

Asked about the Taiwanese who opposed his visit to the shrine, he said, “Taiwan is a democratic liberal state, so we can choose on our own how to commemorate those who died for the country.”

Su and his entourage returned to Taiwan on Tuesday night after a four-day stay in Japan. On behalf of Lee, the group attended the inaugural ceremony of a branch of their party with a group of Japan-based supporters.

About 210,000 people from Taiwan, which Japan ruled for 50 years until 1945, were conscripted or forced to work as civilian employees by the Japanese military. About 28,000 of them who were killed in the war are honored at Yasukuni.

Although China opposes Japanese political leaders’ visits to Yasukuni, Su said it needs to transcend past feelings of hatred and join hands in making efforts toward achieving peace.

Referring to a recent trip to China by a delegation of Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Party, Su said visiting right after China passed an antisecession law could mean they back the law, which allows use of force if Taipei declares independence.

“If China wants to hold talks for peace, it should be talking with the ruling party. Perhaps it is plotting to tear up Taiwan to weaken it,” he said, adding he does not oppose peaceful Taiwan-China exchanges. But he said such events should be under the principle that the two are separate nations.

China has regarded Taiwan as a breakaway province since the civil war that ended in 1949.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union was created after the 2000 presidential election. It advocates “Taiwan’s priority” and reveres Lee, who stepped down as president and was ousted from the defeated KMT, as its spiritual leader.

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