Japan’s ex-PM Abe visits controversial Tokyo shrine

Yoshihide Suga

Yoshihide Suga

Four ministers from Abe's cabinet paid tributes at the shrine last month in the first such visit since 2016.

It is his first visit in almost seven years.

The ministry said in a statement on Saturday that it was expressing deep concern and regret that Abe visited the shrine immediately after his resignation.

Japan's leaders' visits to the shrine were previously seen as a lack of remorse for its military past.

However, a Japanese government spokesman defended Abe's right to visit the shrine, saying that Japan recognized its wartime atrocities.

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Abe last visited the controversial shrine in December 2013, sparking fury from wartime foes Beijing and Seoul and earning a rare diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States. Ties between Seoul and Tokyo suffered a huge setback in recent years over history and trade disputes.

Tokyo says the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty normalising bilateral relations.

The Shinto shrine in Tokyo is viewed by Japan's neighbors in Asia, especially China and South Korea, as a symbol of the nation's past militarism because it honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.

Abe resigned from his post on August 28, citing health reasons. New Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga started his first full day in office Thursday. His former chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, was elected as his replacement last week. It called the shrine a symbolic establishment that glorifies Japan's colonial plunder and war of aggression.

He kept a long way from the shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, as well as convicted war criminals, during his premiership.

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