Beijing on Tuesday sharply criticised the decision of around 100 Japanese members of parliament to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which honours the country’s war dead, including several convicted war criminals.

China’s Foreign Office spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, accused Tokyo of wanton provocation, say that it was “no coincidence” that group chose the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour 80 years ago for their visit, adding “what are they up to?’’

Pilgrimages by Japanese politicians to such shrines always spark protests from China and South Korea, both of which experienced brutal occupation by Japan during the war, and for whom the Yasukuni shrine is a symbol of Japanese militarism.

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The non-partisan Parliamentary Group in Tokyo has long advocated pilgrimages to the controversial shrine three times a year – during the spring and autumn festivals and on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the group has refrained from visiting the controversial site, however.

Japan’s attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941 led directly to the U.S. entry into the war.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed three days later by another on the city of Nagasaki.

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