Japanese Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission Keiji Furuya on Sunday morning paid a visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in the last day of the shrine's autumn festival from Thursday, despite Japan's scratched relations with neighboring countries.
Furuya, who is also the country's state minister in charge of abduction issue, worshipped the shrine also in its spring festival and in the anniversary of Japan's surrender in the World War II on Aug. 15 this year.
His latest worship follows the visits by internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo and a herd of 157 Japanese lawmakers from a nonpartisan group on Friday, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday sent an offering to the shrine under the title of "prime minister."
Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi, younger brother of Abe, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato also visited the notorious shrine on Saturday and Friday respectively, saying the issue will not affect Japan's relations with neighboring China and South Korea.
Japan's relations with the two neighbors have been strained due to Japan's attitude toward wartime history, with a focus on the Yasukuni issue, and territorial disputes.
About 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 Class-A war criminals during the World War II, are enshrined in Yasukuni that is considered as a symbol of Japan's past militarism by neighboring countries which suffered Japan's aggression in wartime.
Sanae Takaichi, policy chief of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was among the lawmakers that visited the notorious shrine Friday. He said that they should continue to visit the place.
Abe reiterated Saturday that it is extremely regrettable for him that he could not visit the shrine during his previous term as prime minister and he still has the same feeling, according to local media.
In a press conference Friday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the 14 Class-A war criminals are among those receiving homage paid by those officials who visited Yasukuni, local reports said.
Such provocative words and repeated visits to the controversial shrine by Japanese cabinet ministers and lawmakers have been a major obstacle for Japan to mend ties with China and South Korea.
China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin has summoned Japanese Ambassador to China Masato Kitera to lodge solemn representations and voiced strong protest and stern condemnation to the Japanese side over the issue, according to a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry Friday.
Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman, said the issue is about whether Japan can correctly understand and deal with its history of invasion and colonization and whether it can respect the feelings of people in China and other victimized countries in Asia.
She said that China is firmly opposed to Japanese cabinet members visiting the shrine, which is essentially an attempt to whitewash Japan's invasion history.
"We again urge the Japanese side to face up to and make real introspection for its history of aggression, respect the feelings of people in war-victim Asian countries, including China, and properly deal with relevant issues," Hua said on Thursday, responding to Abe's offering.
Meanwhile, South Korean officials also blasted Abe for yet another inconsiderate gesture made at the controversial shrine.
Jen Psaki, U.S. State Department spokeswoman, on Friday urged Japan to engage in dialogue with its neighbors in connection with the visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, adding her country has been encouraging Japan to "continue to work with its neighbors to resolve concerns over history in an amicable way, through dialogue. "