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Japanese Cabinet Minister, Lawmakers Visit War Shrine

A group of Japanese lawmakers are led by a Shinto priest as they visit Yasukuni Shrine during the four-day annual Autumn Festival in Tokyo, Oct. 20, 2015.

A third Japanese cabinet minister has visited a controversial shrine that honors the country's war dead, which is considered a symbol of Japan's militaristic past by China and South Korea.

Tuesday's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by Katsunobu Kato, who holds the portfolio for dealing with Japan's aging population and declining birth rate, comes on the heels of Sunday's visit by two other members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet.

More than 70 lawmakers also visited the shrine Tuesday, while Abe sent a tree there Saturday as a ritual offering.

Hidehisa Otsuji, head of a group of parliamentarians campaigning for official visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, declined to comment on Abe’s decision not to visit personally.

"Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe has made offerings, so I believe he could also sometimes pay a personal visit to the shrine. However, it was the prime minister's decision [not to pay a visit personally], so I cannot comment further on this,” Otsuji said.

Yasukuni Shrine contains the names of over 2 million dead Japanese soldiers, as well as several senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes. The visits anger Beijing and Seoul, whose countries suffered under Japan's early 20th century brutal military aggression.

Abe is scheduled to hold trilateral talks with his Chinese and South Korea counterparts early next month.

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