Japan PM Abe's brother goes to controversial Yasukuni war shrine

A Shinto priest bowing at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on October 18, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A Shinto priest bowing at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on October 18, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's younger brother, Senior Vice-Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine on Saturday, a report said.

Mr Kishi told reporters his action should not affect Japan's relations with other countries, and that he had not conferred with the Prime Minister about the visit, Kyodo News said. His visit at the shrine's annual autumn festival came only a day after scores of Japanese parliamentarians, including a Cabinet minister, paid tribute there on Friday, drawing a rebuke from Beijing which said the visit was a bid to "whitewash" history.

Yasukuni is the believed repository of the souls of about 2.5 million war dead. The shrine is controversial because of the inclusion of 14 convicted top war criminals from World War II.

China and South Korea, whose peoples suffered under Japan's militarist rule, see Yasukuni as a symbol of Tokyo's present-day unwillingness to come to terms with its past misdeeds. However, Japanese conservatives say it is natural that they pay homage to people who lost their lives in the service of their country, and insist the shrine is no different from Arlington National Cemetery, where the United States honours its war dead.

Mr Abe, a committed conservative who has not visited the shrine since he came to power late last year, on Thursday donated a symbolic gift to the shrine, in what was taken as a sign that he would not be there in person.

Mr Abe has so far remained strategically vague about his plan to visit the shrine.

Mr Kishi, 54, is Mr Abe's blood-related brother, but he was adopted by a relative who had the different surname.

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