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Japan prime minister's wife visits controversial war shrine

In her Facebook post, Akie Abe wrote, “I feel pain in my chest when I read [soldiers’] letters and farewell notes left for their families."

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan prime minister's wife visits controversial war shrine
Akie Abe’s visit to the controversial Shinto shrine to Japan's war dead is expected to anger Beijing and Seoul. Photo courtesy of Akie Abe/Facebook

TOKYO, May 22 (UPI) -- The wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the country's controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday.

Akie Abe, who recently accompanied her husband on a state visit to Washington, posted to Facebook two photos of her visit, reported The Japan Times.

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In one, she stands in front of the shrine's main building, and in another the Yushukan war museum can be seen in the background. The museum holds exhibits that exalt Japan's wars in the 1930s and '40s.

In her Facebook post, Akie Abe wrote, "I feel pain in my chest when I read [soldiers'] letters and farewell notes left for their families.

She also said, "I'm really thankful for being able to live in a peaceful, rich Japan and again have come to feel I should do what I can for world peace."

The Telegraph reported that her would anger Beijing and Seoul.

Liu Jiangyong, a professor of international relations and Japan at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told Bloomberg that as the first lady, Akie Abe is not just a normal visitor or tourist.

"It's hard to speculate on her motives, but it's strange because she didn't engage in politics before and gave the impression of a reasonable first lady," Liu said.

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Yasukuni enshrines 2.47 million Japanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives. The shrine also honors Japanese Class-A war criminals, including Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.

Beijing, Seoul and Washington have criticized political visits to the Shinto shrine, and past visits have frayed Japan's relations with South Korea and China.

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