Shindo's Yasukuni shrine visit irks Japan's neighbours

Yoshitaka Shindo (C) leaves the controversial Yasukuni shrine to honour the dead, August 2013 Yoshitaka Shindo is a regular visitor to the shrine

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China and South Korea have expressed annoyance after Japan's internal affairs minister visited a shrine to dead soldiers, including war criminals.

Yoshitaka Shindo said he visited the Yasukuni Shrine to pray for peace.

But Beijing said the visit showed the current Japanese government had a "mistaken attitude" to history. Seoul described it as a "retrograde" step.

Japan's neighbours often accuse Tokyo of failing to show the necessary remorse for World War Two atrocities.

Mr Shindo is a regular visitor to the shrine, which honours thousands of Japanese soldiers.

Yasukuni Shrine

  • Built in 1869 under the Emperor Meiji
  • Venerates the souls of 2.5m war dead
  • Those enshrined include hundreds of convicted war criminals, among them executed war-time leader Hideki Tojo
  • Shrine organisers stress that many thousands of civilians are honoured
  • China and South Korea see shrine as glorification of Japanese atrocities

After his latest visit, he told reporters: "I renewed my commitment to never cause such a tragedy as I prayed for peace before the people who lost their lives in the war. That's what I do every time I visit the shrine."

Mr Shindo's grandfather, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, commanded Japanese forces during the legendary battle at Iwo Jima in the closing stages of WW2.

The shrine is a perennial flashpoint, and visits by prominent Japanese figures always prompt protests from China and South Korea.

Among those it honours are dozens who were convicted of war crimes at an allied tribunal after WW2.

Fourteen of those war criminals were convicted of planning and leading Japanese aggression.

The most controversial figure venerated is Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo, who was executed for war crimes in 1948.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather was a leading politician during and after WW2, visited the shrine late last year.

He was the first prime minister to go to the shrine in seven years.

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