TOKYO, Aug 15, 2021, Kyodo. Three members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet on Sunday visited Yasukuni shrine, seen by some as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, as the country marked the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II while Suga sent an offering, The Mainichi reported.
Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, education minister Koichi Hagiuda and World Expo minister Shinji Inoue separately went to the Shinto shrine in central Tokyo, which honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.
The development is likely to draw the ire of countries that suffered at the hands of Japan in the lead-up to and during the war. China and South Korea strongly protested two other Cabinet members — Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and economic and fiscal policy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura — visiting Yasukuni on Friday.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also made a trip to the shrine on Sunday, telling reporters he “paid respects to those who gave their lives for our country.”
No sitting prime minister has visited the shrine since Abe in December 2013, an outing that strained relations with China and South Korea and prompted the United States to say it was “disappointed” by the move.
Both Koizumi and Hagiuda, the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, visited the shrine last year on Aug. 15, the day Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, announced Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces, becoming the first ministers to do so since 2016.
Suga laid flowers at the nearby Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery on Sunday before attending a memorial ceremony. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato had said both he and Suga will “make an appropriate decision” on whether to go to Yasukuni.
Established in 1869 to commemorate those that gave their lives for Japan, Yasukuni in 1978 added wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and other convicted war criminals to the more than 2.4 million war dead enshrined there.