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Japan minister visits controversial shrine

Keiji Furuya says visit to Yasukuni, which honours war dead and imperial rulers, was not meant to offend neighbours.

Last Modified: 20 Oct 2013 02:01
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Keiji Furuya (right) arrives at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo [Reuters]

A second Japanese cabinet minister visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Sunday but said he had no intention of
provoking neighbouring countries.

Keiji Furuya, who is minister in charge of issues related to North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals, visited the Yasukuni shrine early in the morning, an aide said.

Yasukuni, which honours about 2.5 million war dead, is a flashpoint in relations between Japan and its Asian neighbours - particularly China and South Korea - with disagreements about history badly colouring relations.

Beijing and Seoul see Yasukuni as a painful reminder of Japan's imperialist past because it enshrines some of the men who ran the country and its military during years of brutal expansionism.

"It is a duty for parliamentarians... to extend his or her heartfelt condolences to those who devoted their life to their own country," Furuya said in a statement, noting he had "no intention to provoke our neighbouring countries".

Second visit

He is the second Japanese minister to visit the shrine during the autumn festival after Yoshitaka Shindo, minister for internal affairs and communications, who went there on Friday. The festival ends on Sunday.

Shindo insisted he was paying homage at Yasukuni shrine as an individual, and played down the potential for diplomatic fallout but he drew a rebuke from Beijing, which said the visit was a bid to "whitewash" past Japanese aggression.

In Seoul a foreign ministry official bemoaned the shrine's role as one that "justifies the history of Japan's aggression".

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week donated a symbolic gift to the shrine, taken as a sign that he would not be there in person.

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