A Shinto priest (R) leads a pack of lawmakers at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on October 18, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Dozens of Japanese parliament members and a cabinet minister have visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to pay tribute to those who died in the service of the empire of Japan in the 19th century. 
The shrine is seen in China and the two Koreas as a symbol of Japan's past militarism and Tuesday's visit drew immediate rebuke from South Korea which expressed concern and disappointment.
More than 80 lawmakers along with Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozak arrived at the shrine in the center of Tokyo, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also made a ritual offering.
Yasukuni was founded by Emperor Meiji in 1869 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the service of the Japanese empire.
In the post-World War II years, the defeated Japan expanded the purpose of the shrine to include those who died in all the wars involving Japan, from the Meiji era to 1951.
The shrine honors some 2,500,000 people who died for the cause of Japan, including more than 1,000 who are considered as war criminals, including 14 leaders.
The annual offerings to the shrine by Japanese leaders have drawn condemnations from the countries that suffered from Japan's colonialism and aggression in the first half of the 20th century.
In a statement, South Korea urged Japan "to gain trust from neighboring countries and the international community by showing an act of humble introspection and sincere self-reflection on the foundation of the correct perception of history.”
Beijing did not officially comment on the Tuesday visit but criticized Abe's offering on Monday.
Abe, who strives for improvement of Japan’s relations with South Korea and China, has personally visited the shrine once since he became premier in 2012 and sent ritual offerings on a regular base.

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