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Two Japanese cabinet ministers visited a controversial war shrine in Tokyo Friday in a move likely to anger China and South Korea, which see it as a symbol of Japan's militarist past.
Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, paid homage at the Yasukuni shrine on the 69th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, an AFP journalist witnessed.
Soon after Furuya, internal affairs and communications minister Yoshitaka Shindo also visited the shrine in downtown Tokyo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is widely expected to refrain from visiting on Friday's anniversary as he looks to mend ties with Beijing and Seoul.
The 145-year-old Shinto shrine honours some 2.5 million citizens who died in World War II and other conflicts, including 14 indicted war criminals such as General Hideki Tojo, who authorised the attack on Pearl Harbour, drawing the United States into the war.
Many ordinary people visit the shrine to pay their respects to family and friends who died in combat.
But visits by Japanese politicians enrage neighbouring nations, which view them as an insult and a painful reminder of Tokyo's aggression in the first half of the 20th century, including a brutal 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula.
Abe, known for his nationalist views, drew protests himself from China and South Korea when he visited the shrine last December at a time when Japan's ties with the neighbouring countries were severely strained over territorial disputes and differences in historical perceptions.