A Shinto priest (R) prepares to lead a group of Japanese lawmakers that include former Secretary-General of Japan's Defense Agency Seishiro Eto (L) and former Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan Hidehisa Otsuji (C), at the Yasukuni Shrine to pay their respects to the nation's war dead in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday. Photo by Christopher Jue/EPA
April 21 (UPI) -- China expressed its displeasure with Japanese politicians after a group of more than 90 Tokyo lawmakers visited Japan's controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Friday.
Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a regular press briefing that Beijing "urges Japan to take a look at its history of invasions, and to deeply apologize."
"We [also] urge them to maintain a distance from militarism and in action restore the trust of their neighbors in Asia, as well as that of the international community," Lu said.
On Friday, Japanese politicians including communications minister Sanae Takaichi, paid their respects to Japan's war dead at Yasukuni, Kyodo News reported.
Takaichi defended the action and said, "The way we commemorate [the dead] shouldn't turn into a diplomatic issue," according to the Japanese press report.
Seiichi Eto, an aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, accompanied Takaichi and the others.
Abe did not visit the Shinto shrine on Friday but instead sent a ritual offering, a biannual "sacred tree," according to Kyodo.
China's foreign ministry criticized the move.
"Yasukuni Shrine enshrines World War II criminals, and we have continued to strongly oppose the wrongful behavior of senior Japanese politicians," Lu said. "We urge [Japan] to abide by the spirit of the four political documents and four agreements between China and Japan."
The four-point consensus promotes the development of a "mutually beneficial relationship" between the two countries and was signed in 2014.
The Japanese visit marked the first day of an annual spring festival.
South Korea's foreign ministry also criticized the visit and described Yasukuni as a shrine that "glorifies Japan's past colonial exploitation and war of aggression, and also enshrines war criminals."