Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visits controversial shrine for war dead

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister, visited the Yasukuni Shrine on Saturday, days after he was replaced by Yoshihide Suga.

Visits to the shrine often ignite controversy, as war criminals are included among those commemorated by the memorial.

Abe resigned from his post on August 28, citing health reasons. He wrote on Twitter that he visited the shrine and “reported to the spirit” about his retirement.

Abe last visited the Yasukuni shrine in 2013, when he was still prime minister.

The Yasukuni Shrine was founded in 1869 and is dedicated to some 2.5 million men, women and children who have died in all of Japan’s wars since.

Past visits have provoked outrage in the nearby states of South Korea and China, because the site is also regarded by some as the last resting place of the souls of 1,068 convicted war criminals. They include 14 individuals who were tried and convicted of Class A war crimes in World War II.

The shrine is also seen as a symbol of Japan’s past military aggression.

Abe received diplomatic rebukes for his visit to Yasukuni in 2013. The visit outraged Seoul and Beijing, while the US, a close ally of Japan, expressed “disappointment.”

On August 15, four ministers from Abe’s cabinet paid tribute at the shrine to mark the 75th anniversary of World War II. Abe’s cabinet ministers often visited the shrine to pay their tributes.

Visits to the shrine are seen as a tactic to gain support from the conservative wing of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party. Yoshihide Suga, the current PM of Japan, visited the shrine in 2011 and 2012.

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