TOKYO, Dec. 26 -- A number of Japanese political parties criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine Thursday, with some expressing strong opposition.
Critics included political allies. Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the small New Komeito Party, which is part of the ruling coalition with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, said his party had consistently urged the prime minister to avoid visiting the shrine.
"The prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine will make Japan's relations with China and South Korea tougher," Yamaguchi was quoted by local media as saying.
The visit by Abe was "regrettable", he said.
Yamaguchi said he had expressed his opposition to the prime minister before the shrine visit and Abe would have to cope with the impact on Japan's foreign relations by himself, as the prime minister clearly understood the ramifications of his visit.
Katsumasa Suzuki, the secretary general of the People's Life Party, said the visit would enrage neighboring countries, given Japan's position in the East Asian region.
Social Democratic Party secretary general Mataichi Seiji also criticized Abe's Yasukuni visit, saying the prime minister had vowed to follow an active pacifist road, but was engaging in active militarism now.
He described Abe's move as unbelievable.
It is the first time in seven years that a sitting Japanese prime minister has visited the notorious shrine. Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a visit in August 2006.
The shrine is widely considered a symbol of Japan's wartime militarism because 14 class-A war criminals, convicted by an Allied tribunal after the war, are enshrined there.