Japanese ministers visit Yasukuni Shrine, first since 2016

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Two Japanese cabinet ministers paid their respects on Saturday at a war shrine seen by neighbouring countries as a symbol of Tokyo’s past militarism, in the first such visit since 2016.

Nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual cash offering to the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo to mark Saturday’s 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II but was not expected to visit in person, local media said.

Yasukuni honours 2.5 million war dead, mostly Japanese, who perished in the country’s wars since the late 19th century.

But it also enshrines senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal after the war.

Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda, one of the two ministers to visit the shrine along with Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, said he did so to pay tribute to the war dead.

“I paid respects… to the souls of those who nobly sacrificed themselves during the war,” Hagiuda told reporters.

Abe last visited the shrine in December 2013 to mark his first year in power, sparking fury in Beijing and Seoul and earning a rare diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States.

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