TOKYO - Japan's new internal affairs minister said on Friday that she intends to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine although she did not address concern that her new position is likely to exacerbate neighbours' anger over what they see as a symbol of militarism.
The Yasukuni shrine honours Japan's war dead, including 14 leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal. Neighbours who suffered under Japanese occupation during World War Two regard politicians' visits to pay respects at the shrine as evidence of Japan's failure to atone for its aggression.
"I've been visiting Yasukuni as one Japanese individual to offer my sincere appreciation to the spirits of war dead," the new minister, Sanae Takaichi, told a group of journalists. "I intend to continue offering my sincere appreciation as one Japanese."
Takaichi, who was appointed on Wednesday, belongs to a group of lawmakers advocating visits to the shrine which politicians typically visit on days such as August 15, the anniversary of Japan's World War Two defeat. Visits by cabinet ministers especially anger neighbours like China and South Korea, where memories of Japan's wartime aggression are raw.
The new Defence Minister, Akinori Eto, also a member of the lawmaker’s group that advocates visiting the shrine, told a news conference on Wednesday when asked about the shrine he did not want to cause trouble for the government, indicating a more cautious stance.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects at the shrine in December, sharply chilling ties with China and South Korea, with which relations had already been strained over territorial disputes.