TOKYO (Kyodo) — Industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura on Saturday visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which is seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
The Shinto shrine honors convicted war criminals along with more than 2.4 million war dead.
The visit by Nishimura, who was appointed Wednesday as the economy, trade and industry minister in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s new Cabinet, came ahead of the 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II on Monday.
Nishimura is the first minister known to have visited the shrine since the Kishida government launched October last year. No members of the Cabinet, including the prime minister, went to the shrine during its biannual festivals last October and in April.
“I resolved to make utmost efforts for the peace and development of Japan, also thinking of the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Nishimura told reporters, referring to the former leader who was fatally shot last month.
Nishimura belongs to the Liberal Democratic Party faction previously led by Abe, who died on July 8 after he was shot by a lone gunman during a stump speech in the western city of Nara, two days before a House of Councillors election.
This year’s war anniversary comes amid heightened tensions with China over the recent firing of ballistic missiles during military drills that fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Japan and China, meanwhile, are marking the 50th anniversary this year of the normalization of bilateral ties.
Established in 1869 to commemorate those that gave their lives for Japan, Yasukuni in 1978 added wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo and other convicted war criminals to the war dead enshrined there.