• Kyodo

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Three members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet on Sunday visited Yasukuni Shrine, seen by some as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, as the country marked the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II while Suga sent an offering.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, education minister Koichi Hagiuda and World Expo minister Shinji Inoue separately went to the Shinto shrine in central Tokyo, which honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sent a tamagushi ritual offering the same day as the president of the Liberal Democratic Party through his personal office at his personal expense, informed sources said.

The development is likely to draw the ire of China and South Korea, which suffered at the hands of Japan in the lead-up to and during the war. The Shinto shrine in central Tokyo honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.

Beijing and Seoul strongly protested two other members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet — Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura — visiting Yasukuni on Friday.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also made a trip to the shrine on Sunday, telling reporters he "paid respects to those who gave their lives for our country."

No sitting prime minister has visited the shrine since Abe in December 2013, an outing that strained relations with China and South Korea and prompted the United States to say it was "disappointed" by the move.

Both Koizumi and Hagiuda, the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, visited the shrine last year on Aug. 15, the day Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, announced Japan's surrender to the Allied forces, becoming the first ministers to do so since 2016.

Suga laid flowers at the nearby Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery on Sunday before attending a memorial ceremony.

Established in 1869 to commemorate those that gave their lives for Japan, Yasukuni in 1978 added wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and other convicted war criminals to the more than 2.4 million war dead enshrined there.

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