China has condemned a visit by Japanese lawmakers to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo, saying the move would flare up tensions between the two countries.
On Friday, 110 Japanese parliamentarians from five parties paid homage to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors some 2.5 million people, who died in World War II and other conflicts.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also reportedly sent a potted tree in a ritual offering to the shrine.
The shrine is controversial as former Japanese military leaders, including 14 top war criminals who orchestrated mass atrocities in China and other areas, are believed to be enshrined there.
China condemned the visit by high-profile politicians as an insult and a painful reminder of Tokyo’s aggression during the Pacific War in 1940s.
Beijing said it is gravely concerned and firmly opposes such activities. It also reiterated that Sino-Japanese ties can only experience healthy and stable development, if Japan repents its “aggressive past.”
“China is gravely concerned and firmly opposes the negative activities in Japan surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.
On Thursday, South Korea also slammed the visit.
Taiwan also condemned the visit to the controversial shrine, saying visits hurt “people’s feelings in neighboring countries.”
“We urge the Japanese government and politicians to face history and deeply reflect to take constructive actions… to jointly create the prospect of peace and prosperity,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Japan, however, claim there is nothing wrong with honoring war dead with Hidehisa Otsuji, the visiting group’s leader, saying “People in any country pay homage to those who died for the sake of their countries.”
Japanese politicians regularly visit the Yasukuni Shrine. Abe’s visit to the controversial site in December last year drew anger from neighboring countries.
Following last year’s visit, South Korea called on Japan’s leadership to “abandon their revisionist attitudes.”
The move also earned Abe a diplomatic ticking off from the United States, which in a rare move said it was “disappointed” by Japan’s action.