TOKYO: A cabinet minister was among scores of Japanese parliamentarians who paid tribute at a controversial war shrine in Tokyo on Friday, in a move likely to anger China and South Korea.
Yoshitaka Shindo, minister for internal affairs and communications, insisted he was paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine as an individual, and played down the potential for diplomatic fallout.
“I offered prayers in a private capacity,” Shindo, who wore a morning suit, told reporters after making his offering of a branch from a sacred tree.
“I mourned people who lost their lives in wars and prayed for peace,” said Shindo, whose grandfather, the commandant of a garrison on Iwojima, died in the infamous battle for the island.
Iwojima was a key staging post for the United States military in its assault on Japan in the closing stages of World War II.
Asked if his visit to the shrine would affect Tokyo’s ties with other Asian countries, he said: “It’s not something that should provoke comments from anyone.”
“I don’t think this will develop into a diplomatic issue at all.”
The visits were part of the autumn festival at Yasukuni, which runs until Sunday. Thousands of veterans from WWII or their bereaved families are expected to pay homage, while tourists, both domestic and foreign, will also visit.