Japanese media have strongly condemned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit yesterday to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, accusing him of hurting Japan's national interests and isolating Japan diplomatically.
"No matter what reasons Mr Abe puts forth for his visit, it cannot be justified," said the influential Asahi Shimbun daily in a sharply-worded editorial.
"If a sitting prime minister or Cabinet minister prays at Yasukuni, the visit takes on a meaning beyond that of purely praying for the souls of the war dead," the paper added.
The diplomatic atmosphere in the region has already soured over territorial disputes, the paper noted. Mr Abe's visit to Yasukuni has only made the situation worse.
The Mainichi Shimbun daily said that though Mr Abe tells China and South Korea that the door to dialogue is always open, he has personally placed an obstacle in front of that door in the form of Yasukuni.
"Instead of building a mechanism to deal with the uncertainties in the region as he should, there is no way of holding consultations (with China and South Korea)," said the paper.
The centrist Yomiuri Shimbun daily said the government must give serious thought to building a national monument for the war dead that does not include war criminals.
The right-leaning Sankei Shimbun applauded Mr Abe for "fulfilling a promise he made to the people" to visit Yasukuni, calling the visit an act necessary for maintaining regional peace.