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Japanese MPs visit Tokyo war shrine, China and South Korea displeased

Japanese members of parliament visited a Tokyo war shrine Friday. The ritual will no doubt anger China and South Korea, with memories of Japan's military record still very raw.

Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi (C) leaves the Yasukuni Shrine

Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi (C) leaves the Yasukuni Shrine

At least 92 MPs visited Yasukuni Shrine - a symbol of Japan's militaristic past - for its annual spring festival Friday.

Some 79 were from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to an official working for the upper house of parliament member Toshiei Mizuochi. Internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi also visited the shrine, though separately from the other MPs, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK.

Friday's visit by MPs came a day after Abe made a ritual offering at the shrine. He visited in

December 2013

to mark his first year in power and was heavily criticized in Beijing and Seoul. The visit also earned him a diplomatic rebuke from the United States, which said it was "disappointed" by the action.

Since then Abe had not been to the shrine, and the reactions of China and South Korea to the latest visit is expected to be muted as Japan has taken steps over the past 18 months to improve relations with both countries, with Abe holding summit meetings with their leaders.

Eyes of the beholder

China Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. View of the monument commemorating victims who died in the Nanjing Massacre of 1937

China Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. View of the monument commemorating victims who died in the Nanjing Massacre of 1937

The shrine honors the millions of Japanese dead, including several senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II.

The shrine to Japan's Shinto religion has long been subject to criticism by countries that suffered Japanese aggression in the first half of the 20th century.

Abe and other nationalists say the shrine is merely a place to remember fallen soldiers.

jbh/jil (dpa, AFP)

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