Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December stirred outrage at home and abroad because he was perceived as promoting his revisionist views on wartime history and violating the constitutional separation of state and religion.

A host of countries, including the United States and Russia, expressed disappointment with Abe's unexpected visit, but the most vociferous protests came from China and South Korea, which experienced Japanese aggression first-hand during the war and remain angry with Japan over territorial and other historical issues.

The U.S. and other countries previously warned Abe not to visit the shrine to avoid exacerbating its already tense diplomatic relations with Beijing and Seoul. Yet visiting Yasukuni as prime minister was a personal goal of Abe, who said he regretted not doing so during his first, short stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.