Japanese have duty to visit war shrine, says minister Keiji Furuya
Associated Press in Tokyo
A Japanese cabinet minister yesterday visited a Tokyo shrine that honours the dead, including war criminals, in what has repeatedly caused friction with Japan's neighbours.
Keiji Furuya, who chairs the National Public Safety Commission, said he paid respects yesterday morning at the Yasukuni shrine ahead of a festival that starts today.
"I believe that to honour those dead who gave up their lives for our country is the right thing for a Japanese to do," he said.
Furuya said he regularly visited Yasukuni at spring and autumn festivals, and on August 15 - the day Japan surrendered in 1945. He chose to go at the weekend because he had duties to attend to during the week.
Officials' visits to Yasukuni have infuriated China and both Koreas. The 2.5 million Japanese war dead enshrined there include 14 class-A war criminals from the second world war - national leaders who were either executed, died in prison or during their trials.
This year's April 21-23 spring festival at Yasukuni partially overlaps with US President Barack Obama's trip to Japan, part of an Asian tour that also includes South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Obama late last month helped to bring together Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye for the first time since they took office more than a year ago.