Japanese ministers in Yasukuni shrine visit

Japanese lawmakers follow a Shinto priest during a visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine on 15 August 2014 to honour the country's war dead on the 69th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, in Tokyo. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Besides the two cabinet ministers, several Japanese lawmakers also visited the war shrine

Two Japanese cabinet ministers have visited the Yasukuni shrine, angering neighbours South Korea and China.

Keiji Furuya and Yoshitaka Shindo visited the shrine to mark the 69th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two.

The Yasukuni shrine commemorates Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not visit the shrine but sent a ritual offering instead.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, a regular visitor to the shrine, said he was not worried that his visit would cause diplomatic tension.

"Many valuable lives perished in the war. I came here to pray so that something like this will never happen again," he said.

The shrine is dedicated to souls of Japanese nationals who died in wars, but those venerated include 14 convicted Class A war criminals.

A museum in the shrine's grounds is also deeply controversial because of the way it presents Japan's World War Two history.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Shindo, a regular visitor, paid his respects at the shrine on Friday morning
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Keiji Furuya, another cabinet minister, also visited the Yasukuni shrine
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Friday marks the 69th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two

Visits to the shrine anger China and South Korea, who see it as a symbol of Japan's World War Two aggression and accuse Tokyo of failing to show adequate remorse.

China said it resolutely opposed such visits, calling the shrine a "spiritual tool of Japanese militarism".

"Only when Japan earnestly faces up to and deeply reflects on its history of aggression and completely makes a clean break from militarism, can it be possible for Sino-Japanese relations to achieve a healthy and stable development," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a statement.

South Korea's foreign ministry said it "cannot help deploring" the visit and Mr Abe's offering, according to Yonhap news agency.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye also called on Japanese leaders to show sincerity over historical issues, in a speech commemorating the end of Japanese colonial rule.

Ties between Tokyo and its two closest neighbours have been severely strained by both historical issues and separate territorial disputes.

While Washington has been mediating relations between Seoul and Tokyo, tensions between China and Japan remain high.

Mr Abe paid a visit to the shrine in December, prompting a rare US rebuke.

He and the Chinese president have not yet held a formal summit, but met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St Petersburg last year.

The two sides are reported to be eyeing a similar meeting at a regional forum later in the year.

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