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Abe to visit Yasukuni war shrine, backlashes expected from neighbors


TOKYO, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) -- Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the Yasukuni war shrine, the Japanese government said Thursday, which is expected to further escalate Tokyo's diplomatic tensions with Seoul and Beijing.

To mark the first anniversary of his taking office, the prime minister will pay his respects at the war shrine late Thursday morning, the government said.

The forthcoming visit to the controversial shrine, if paid as planned, will mark a Japanese prime minister's first trip there since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid his respects in 2006.

South Korea and China are expected to react angrily to the planned visit, which will further fragment Japan's already icy relations with the two neighbors.

The Yasukuni shrine, which honors many convicted Class A war criminals along with millions of Japanese war dead, is viewed by former Japanese colonial victims as symbolizing Japan's imperial past.

Seoul and Beijing have called on the nationalistic Abe administration to face up and earnestly reflect on its history of aggression.

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