South Korea has criticized a visit by Japanese lawmakers to a shrine honoring the country's war dead. But the former welfare minister said every country has the right to pay respects to those who died for their country.
Some 80 Japanese lawmakers on Tuesday visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for the dead, prompting criticism from the country's neighbors.
South Korea's foreign ministry expressed "deep concern and disappointment" after the lawmakers made ritual offerings at the shrine.
"(We) urge Japanese politicians to gain trust from neighboring countries and the international community by showing an act of humble introspection and sincere self-reflection on the foundation of the correct perception of history.
However, former Welfare Minister Hidehisa Otsuji, who led the group, said the shrine aims to solely honor the victims of the war.
A memorial to aggression?
"Every country pays respects to people who died for his or her country," Otsuji told reporters on Tuesday.
The shrine honors the spirits of Japan's 2.5 million war dead, including 14 Japanese leaders convicted of crimes by a post-war tribunal.
The visit came a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the shrine.
In December 2013, Abe visited the shrine in person; the only time the premier has done so.
He is expected to refrain from an official visit during the four-day autumn festival that began on Monday. The Yasukuni Shrine is viewed by Japan's regional neighbors as a memorial to its wartime aggression.
ls/jm (dpa, Reuters)