Tokyo: A Japanese cabinet minister Saturday visited Tokyo`s Yasukuni war shrine on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in a move likely to anger China and South Korea which see it as a symbol of the country`s militarist past.
An AFP reporter saw Haruko Arimura, minister in charge of women`s empowerment, enter the gates of the leafy shrine dedicated to millions who died in conflicts -- but also including more than a dozen war criminals.
Other politicians walked down the shrine`s stone path Saturday morning with at least one more cabinet minister expected to visit later in the day.
Visits by Japanese politicians every August 15 -- the anniversary of Japan`s WWII surrender -- enrage neighbouring nations, which view them as an insult and a painful reminder of Tokyo`s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, including a brutal 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula.
The anniversary comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday delivered a closely watched speech that expressed regret but also said future generations need not apologise for Japan`s war record.
His remarks were welcomed by the US but blasted by China and the South Korean press as insincere.
Both countries suffered badly from Japan`s imperial march across Asia in the 20th century and wanted Abe to uphold previous explicit prime-ministerial apologies.
The grandson of a wartime cabinet minister, Abe will not visit the leafy Yasukuni shrine on Saturday and sent a ritual offering instead, local media reported.
His late 2013 visit drew an angry response from Beijing and Seoul, as well as rebuke from close ally Washington.