TOKYO • Dozens of Japanese lawmakers, including one Cabinet minister, visited a shrine to Japan's war dead yesterday, in a move that could spark protests elsewhere in Asia where the shrine is regarded as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine spring festival, which takes place as Japan seeks greater cooperation with China and South Korea in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.
Japan's Asian neighbours have been outraged in the past by its politicians visiting the shrine in Tokyo as it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with the other war dead.
Around 95 MPs paid their respects en masse yesterday, NHK national television said, including Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, who usually visits during the shrine's twice-yearly festivals and on Aug 15, the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender.
Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki sent a ritual offering, like Mr Abe, but neither was expected to visit, NHK added.
Mr Abe has visited the shrine only once, in December 2013, since becoming Premier the previous year.
Instead of attending in person, Mr Abe has opted to send ritual offerings on several occasions, in an effort to improve ties with China and South Korea, which have been strained by territorial and other disputes.
There was no sign that Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, who has been accused by China of recklessly misrepresenting wartime history, had visited or made an offering at the shrine.