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S. Korea slams Japan for politicians' war shrine visit


SEOUL/TOKYO/BEIJING, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea expressed strong regrets on Thursday over Japanese cabinet members' visit to a Tokyo shrine seen as a symbol of the country's imperialistic past.

Earlier in the day, three officials -- Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, Keiji Furuya, minister in charge of the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s, and Administrative Reform Minister Tomomi Inada -- paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan's war dead, and includes Class-A criminals.

Thursday was the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

Later in the day, some 100 Japanese lawmakers also paid homage to the shrine.

"It is very deplorable that Japanese leading politicians and cabinet members paid their respects to the Yasukuni Shrine that glorifies the history of imperialistic invasion," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a statement.

"It shows that they still turn a blind eye to the history," he said in the statement titled "Until when do Japanese politicians lock their country up in Yasukuni?"

It is unusual that Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman issued a statement to express regret over the issue when Japan's prime minister and foreign minister did not make their visit to the controversial war shrine.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not visit the shrine this time, apparently mindful of the expected furor his visit would draw from neighboring countries. Instead, he made a monetary offering to the shrine via an aide.

"We urge Japan to be proactive to win trust from neighboring countries by facing up to history with confidence and truly reflecting itself," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, China summoned the Japanese ambassador in Beijing and lodged a strong protest against the pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine by the Japanese ministers.

In a statement, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hong Lei said that the visits "seriously undermine the feelings of the people in Asian victim countries, including China."

"Any form of visit by Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni eventually glorifies the history of the country's invasion and militarism," Hong said.

South Korea, China and other Asian nations have long resented visits to the shrine because the act is considered to glorify Japan's imperialistic past.

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