South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se has canceled a scheduled meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, in Tokyo this week in protest over visits by Cabinet members to a controversial shrine honoring the war dead.
The foreign ministry in Seoul expressed “deep concern and regret” after several Cabinet ministers visited the Yasukuni shrine, and called the latest visits “anachronistic acts oblivious to the past history”, AFP reports.
The ministerial visit to the shrine “glorifies an invasion that inflicted great loss and suffering on Japan’s neighbors,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
A South Korean official said the visits took place against Seoul’s wishes and that they have soured the atmosphere for bilateral talks, reports Kyodo News.
The memorial, which honors 2.5 million war dead, including 14 war criminals, is seen as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism and has become a flashpoint in diplomatic relations with South Korea and China.
Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that he believed the visits were made in the ministers’ personal capacity and that the government had no official involvement.
“Each country has its own position, and that kind of thing should not affect diplomacy,” he told reporters in Tokyo.