• Reuters

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Sanae Takaichi, the new internal affairs minister, said Friday she intends to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine although she did not address concern that her new position is likely to exacerbate neighboring countries’ anger over what they see as a symbol of militarism.

The shrine honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal.

Neighboring nations which suffered under Japanese occupation during World War II regard politicians’ visits to pay respects at the shrine as evidence of Japan’s failure to atone for its aggression.

“I’ve been visiting Yasukuni as one Japanese individual to offer my sincere appreciation to the spirits of war dead,” Takaichi told a group of reporters.

“I intend to continue offering my sincere appreciation as one Japanese.”

Takaichi, who was appointed Wednesday, belongs to a group of lawmakers advocating visits to the shrine which politicians typically visit on days such as Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat.

Visits by Cabinet ministers especially anger neighbors like China and South Korea, where memories of Japan’s wartime aggression remain.

The new defense minister, Akinori Eto, also a member of the lawmakers’ group that advocates visiting the shrine, told a news conference Wednesday when asked about the shrine that he does not want to cause any trouble for the government, indicating a more cautious stance.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects at the shrine in December, sharply chilling ties with China and South Korea, with which relations had already been strained due to territorial disputes.

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