Former Japanese PM Abe visits controversial Tokyo shrine

Yoshihide Suga

TOKYO (AP) - Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday he visited a shrine viewed by China and both Koreas as a symbol of wartime aggression. Abe's cabinet ministers often visited the shrine to pay their tributes.

Abe's visit Saturday to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which he announced in a tweet, comes days after his resignation.

Japan's occupation of its two neighbours ended with its defeat in 1945 and the conclusion of the Second World War.

Yesterday, South Korea's foreign ministry released a statement expressing "deep concern and regret" that Mr Abe had paid respect at the shrine "immediately" after his resignation as prime minister.

People visit Yasukuni Shrine on the 75th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, in Tokyo on august 15.

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Visits by Japan's leaders to the shrine have previously been seen as a lack of remorse for its militaristic past.

Many South Koreans still harbor strong resentment against Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Mr Abe had visited the shrine in person once during his last tenure as prime minister but regularly sent offerings via an aide on the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II and during the shrine's spring and autumn festivals. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is unlikely to make such a visit, political analysts said.

Abe last visited the controversial shrine in December 2013, sparking fury from wartime foes Beijing and Seoul and earning a rare diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States.

Suga won the backing of fellow ruling party lawmakers with a pledge to carry on Abe's policies.

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