In a move that is expected to send into tizzy Japan’s regional neighbours, Japanese lawmakers numbering 150, on Tuesday paid a visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine just a day before US President Barack Obama is to arrive in Tokyo.
The visit to the war shrine that honours Japan’s war dead was paid to mark a spring festival.
However, Japan’s neighbours like China and South Korea consider it a derogatory move that insults the Asian victims of World War Two as the shrine also honours many convicted war criminals.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe did not personally visit the shrine, but sent ritual offerings on Monday.
Denouncing the PM’s offering at the shrine, the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement called it a “negative asset for Japan”.
The statement added that both the mass visit to the shrine by Japanese lawmakers reflected Japan’s cabinet’s “erroneous attitude towards history”.
South Korea also reacted to the move, saying that the visit “romanticised Japanese colonialism and its war of aggression”.
The en masse visit by Japanese lawmakers comes almost a year after in August 2013 they had paid a similar visit to the controversial war shrine.
Also in December last year, PM Abe himself had visited he shrine, evoking strong reactions from its neighbours, with whom it is already embroiled in an acrimonious geographical stand off.
China had then called the move as a brazen act “against war history and human conscience” and “a brutal offence against the feelings of the Chinese and other Asian war victims of Japan”.
The US had also expressed concern saying, it was “disappointed” and concerned about the ramifications of the move, cautioning that it may aggravate the tensions already simmering between the Asian neighbours.
However, justifying the visit, Abe had said his visit was “not intended to hurt the Chinese or South Koreans”.
“I chose this day to report (to the souls of the dead) what we have done in the year since the administration launched and to pledge and determine that never again will people suffer in war,” he had said.