Japan minister visits controversial war shrine: Media reports

Japanese Internal Affairs and Communication Minister Yoshitaka Shindo speaks to reporters as he visits the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, on Jan 1, 2014. A Japanese cabinet minister visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Wednesday, J
Japanese Internal Affairs and Communication Minister Yoshitaka Shindo speaks to reporters as he visits the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, on Jan 1, 2014. A Japanese cabinet minister visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Wednesday, Jan 1, 2014, press reports said, six days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit enraged Japan's neighbours and prompted criticism from Washington. -- PHOTO: AFP 

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese cabinet minister visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Wednesday, press reports said, six days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit enraged Japan's neighbours and prompted criticism from Washington.

Mr Yoshitaka Shindo, the minister of internal affairs and communication, visited the Yasukuni shrine on New Year's Day as thousands of people attended Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to pray for good fortune in 2014, Jiji and Kyodo news agencies said.

Last Thursday Mr Abe made his first visit as premier to the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan's war dead including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II.

China and South Korea see it as a brutal reminder of Tokyo's imperialist past and wartime aggression.

Mr Abe, known for his nationalist views, came to power in December 2012 in an election landslide.

He previously served as premier from 2006 to 2007 without visiting Yasukuni after his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi's repeated pilgrimages there saw ties with Beijing and Seoul plunge to their worst in decades.

While prime ministers after Mr Koizumi have refrained from going to the shrine, conservative lawmakers regularly offer prayers there for the war dead.