Two Japanese ministers defy PM, visit shrine
Tokyo: Two Japanese cabinet ministers defied the Prime Minister on Wednesday to visit the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on the 67th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender.
Jin Matsubara, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, and Yuichiro Hata, the minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, visited the shrine despite calls from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to refrain from doing so, reported Xinhua.
"This is a private visit to this shrine," Matsubara told reporters. Hata had said earlier that his visit would be a private one as well.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, the chief of the biggest opposition Liberal Democratic Party, also visited the shrine on Wednesday.
The shrine, which honours some 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 major war criminals, is seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism by its Asian neighbours including China and South Korea.
The visits were the first by cabinet members under a government led by the Democratic Party of Japan which came to power in 2009.
The 16 other cabinet members have decided against visiting the shrine.
Asian countries which suffered countless deaths when they were invaded by the Japanese military during World War II firmly oppose Japanese official visits to the shrine.