Canadian pop music star Justin Bieber has prompted fresh controversy and a condemnation by China, after visiting a Tokyo shrine honoring several World War II Japanese war criminals.
Bieber, who is on vacation in Japan, posted two pictures from the Yasukuni Shrine Wednesday on his Instagram account, where he has nearly 16 million followers. He also posted the images to his Twitter account, where he has 51 million followers.
While in Japan I asked my driver to pull over for which I saw a beautiful shrine. I was mislead to… http://t.co/0p5iqgPVV0— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) April 23, 2014
The photos were deleted after dozens of Instagram users slammed him for being insensitive. They demanded the troubled 20 year-old apologize for insulting the Chinese people.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he hopes the singer "can learn more about the history of Japanese militarism and the wrongful historical and militaristic views promoted by the shrine."
In a later Instagram post, Bieber said he was "extremely sorry" to anyone he offended. The pop star said he was "mislead to believe the shrines were only a place of prayer," adding "I love you China and I love you Japan."
Bieber's visit comes a day after a group of Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also left a ritual offering there, but refrained from visiting, which he did in December.
Japanese officials say they make such visits in a personal, not official, capacity. They stress they are only trying to pay their respects to the country's 2.5 million war dead honored at the shrine.
Such visits are seen by China and South Korea as evidence Tokyo has not sufficiently dealt with its imperialist past. They believe the shrine and an accompanying museum glorify Japan's colonization of Korea and invasion of China.
It appears that Bieber did not know he would spark international headlines by visiting the Shinto shrine.
In one of the photos, Bieber was shown standing in front of the shrine with the caption, "Thank you for your blessings." In another, he stood with his hands clasped next to a man in traditional clothing.
Bieber has recently been in the headlines for reasons other than his music. In January, he was arrested in Miami on charges of driving under the influence, resisting arrest, and driving with an expired license.
Last April, Bieber was also criticized after visiting the Amsterdam museum of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, where he wrote in the guestbook, "Hopefully she would have been a Belieber" - a nickname he uses for his legion of young female fans.
Musically, he is known for his hit songs that include "Baby," "Boyfriend" and "As Long as You Love Me."