TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni war shrine Thursday in a move sure to infuriate China and South Korea.
The visit to the shrine, which honors 2.5 million war dead including convicted class A war criminals, appears to be a departure from Abe's "pragmatic" approach to foreign policy, in which he tried to avoid alienating neighboring countries. It was the first visit by a sitting prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went to mark the end of World War II in 2006.
Visits to Yasukuni by Japanese politicians have long been a point of friction with China and South Korea, because of Japan's brutal aggression during World War II.
Thursday's visit came on the first anniversary of Abe's taking office as prime minister. Abe, who had visited previously when he was not prime minister, had expressed extreme regret over his decision not to visit Yasukuni during an earlier one-year term in office in 2006-2007.
Adding to the unease of Japan's neighbors is Abe's support for revising Japan's pacifist constitution and expanding the military to counter rising tensions over a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China.