Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura made a controversial visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine a day after four other members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet did so on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Wishing to offer prayers in a quiet environment, Nishimura chose Sunday to visit the shrine — which honors convicted war criminals along with more than 2.4 million war dead and is seen by Japan’s neighbors as a symbol of its past militarism — and made a ritual offering, according to the sources.
The visits Saturday by the quartet of Cabinet ministers prompted South Korea to express “deep disappointment and concern,” and Seoul called on Japanese leaders to show sincere remorse for the past.
The four — Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, education minister Koichi Hagiuda, Seiichi Eto, minister in charge of territorial issues, and internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi — became the first incumbent Cabinet members to visit the shrine on the anniversary of the end of the war in four years.
Abe himself did not make a visit but instead sent a ritual offering, paid for with his own money, as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Past visits by Japanese prime ministers to Yasukuni have drawn a strong backlash from some Asian countries that suffered at the hands of Japan in the lead-up to and during the war. Abe’s sole shrine visit while in office, in December 2013, aggravated already strained ties with China and South Korea.
The United States also voiced its disappointment at the time, with media reports saying Abe ignored a request by then-Vice President Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, to forgo the visit.