Two Japanese cabinet members visit Yasukuni Shrine

TOKYO/BEIJING, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- Two members of Japan's cabinet paid their respects Thursday at a Tokyo shrine seen as a symbol of the country's imperialistic past despite long-running protests from South Korea and China against such visits.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo and Keiji Furuya, minister in charge of the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s, visited 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.

Shindo later told reporters that he made the visit as an individual, not as a cabinet member.

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

In a statement, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hong Lei said on Thursday 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.

Later in the day, about 90 Japanese lawmakers also paid homage at the shrine.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not visit the shrine, 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.

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