S. Korea shelves Japan trip over shrine visit

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Monday shelved a proposed visit by Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se to Tokyo in protest at the visit by two Japanese cabinet ministers to a controversial war shrine.

"We express deep concern and regret over the visit... to the shrine that glorifies an invasion that inflicted great loss and suffering on Japan's neighbours," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Mr Keiji Furuya, the chief of the National Public Safety Commission, separately visited the Yasukuni shrine on Sunday.

The memorial, which honours around 2.5 million war dead - including 14 leading war criminals - is seen by Japan's Asian neighbours including China and South Korea as a symbol of Tokyo's imperialist past.

Seoul's foreign ministry called the latest move "anachronistic" and strongly urged Tokyo to "take responsible action" to win back the trust of its neighbours.

Discussions on a visit to Japan later this week by Foreign Minister Yun - his first since taking office in March - were called off in protest, a ministry spokeswoman said.

Mr Yun had been planning to meet his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida to discuss ties with both countries under new leadership.

"But the plan has been cancelled after the Japanese officials' visit," the spokeswoman told AFP without elaborating.

Visits to the shrine by government ministers and high-profile figures spark outrage in China and on the Korean peninsula, where many feel Japan has failed to atone for its brutal aggression in the first half of the 20th century.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not make a pilgrimage but paid for equipment made of wood and fabric - which bears his name and title - which is used to decorate an altar.

Ties between Tokyo and Seoul are already strained by a territorial row over a Seoul-controlled chain of islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).