On the eve of a two-day spring festival, local media reported that Japan’s prime minister on Friday sent a ceremonial offering to a shrine in Tokyo connected to war.
The decision was met with instant and harsh criticism in South Korea, where resentment over World War II is still very much alive.
Fumio Kishida sent a “masakaki” offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, but is likely to avoid an in-person visit, the Kyodo News Agency reported.
The shrine has been a source of tension between Japan and its neighbors, particularly South Korea and China, as it is viewed as a sign of Japan’s failure to atone for its past “imperialist aggression.”
At a press briefing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno declined to comment on Kishida’s offering, but said Kishida made it “as a private person” rather than a public figure, according to the agency.
Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi also offered prayers at the Shinto shrine while several other lawmakers also sent ritual offerings.
‘Deep disappointment and regret’
South Korea expressed “deep disappointment and regret over the fact that the responsible leaders of Japan have once again sent offerings to and paid respects at the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan’s war of aggression and enshrines war criminals,” the Yonhap News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk saying in a statement.
Seoul “strongly urges” Japan to “squarely face history” and demonstrate sincere remorse for its past, he added.