Japan's economic security minister Sanae Takaichi on Tuesday visited the war-linked Yasukuni shrine, seen by some of Tokyo's Asian neighbors as a symbol of its past militarism, raising concerns about potential backlash from China and South Korea.

Takaichi, known for her hawkish views on national security issues, has routinely visited the Shinto shrine in Tokyo on various occasions, such as its biannual rites and the anniversary of Japan's surrender on Aug. 15, 1945.

"I offered my gratitude with respect to the spirits of those who lost their lives for a national policy," Takaichi told reporters after visiting the shrine on the final day of its three-day spring festival.

Economic security minister Sanae Takaichi (front) visits the war-linked Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on April 23, 2024. (Kyodo) 

Earlier Tuesday, a cross-party group of more than 90 lawmakers, including some senior vice ministers from the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also visited the shrine, as it regularly does.

Among Cabinet members under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has described himself as a dovish moderate within the LDP, economic revitalization minister Yoshitaka Shindo paid tribute to the war dead honored at the shrine on Sunday.

Yasukuni has often been at the center of diplomatic friction with China and South Korea, as Japan's wartime leaders, convicted as war criminals by a post-World War II international tribunal, are among the more than 2.4 million war dead honored at the shrine.

In 1978, Yasukuni added 14 Class-A war criminals, such as wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, to the enshrined deities, stirring controversy at home and abroad. Tojo was executed by hanging for war crimes.

Past visits to Yasukuni by Japanese prime ministers, including assassinated former leader Shinzo Abe, and lawmakers have drawn fire from China and South Korea, where memories of Japan's wartime actions run deep.

Takaichi is a House of Representatives lawmaker known for sharing Abe's hawkish stance, with China labeling her a "right-wing" nationalist. Japan had invaded and occupied a wide area of China by the end of the war and ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

In a bid to avoid irritating China, South Korea and some other Asian neighbors, recent prime ministers have sent offerings to Yasukuni during its major events. 

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