Japan ruling party official visits controversial Yasukuni Shrine

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Japan ruling party official visits controversial Yasukuni Shrine

TOKYO: A senior official in Japan's ruling party visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Monday, August 15th, the 77th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a move likely to anger South Korea and China.

The site, honoring 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, was visited early on Monday by Koichi Hagiuda, head of the Liberal Democratic Party's policy research council and a key ally of former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

The central Tokyo shrine was visited by Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura on Saturday, which was seen by Beijing and Seoul as a symbol of Japan's past military aggression.

The commemoration leaves Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the dovish side of the conservative LDP facing a tricky balancing act – avoiding irking international neighbours and partners while keeping the more right-wing members of the party happy, particularly after the killing of party kingpin Abe last month.

Japan's ties with China are particularly strained this year after it conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following the visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month. Several missiles fell in the waters of Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone during the drills.

A group of lawmakers who normally visit en masse on Aug 15 said last week they wouldn't do so due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

Kishida avoided paying his respects in person on the anniversary of the war's end, while he was a cabinet minister and LDP official, but has sent offerings to the two Yasukuni festivals that took place since he took office last October. He and Emperor Naruhito will attend a separate, secular ceremony later in the day.

Abe was the last prime minister in recent memory to visit Yasukuni while in office in 2013 -- a visit that outraged both China and South Korea and even drew a rebuke from its close ally, the United States.

The United States and Japan have become staunch security allies in the decades since the war's end, but its legacy still haunts East Asia.

Koreans, who mark the date as National Liberation Day, resent Japan's 1910 -- 1945 colonisation of the peninsula, while China has bitter memories of the imperial troops invasion and occupation of parts of the country from 1931 -- 1945.