Japanese prime minister to visit Yasukuni shrine

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Yasukuni war shrine Thursday in a move sure to infuriate China and South Korea.

Japanese media reported that Abe will visit the shrine that honors 2.5 million war dead, including convicted class A war criminals, at 11:30 a.m. (0230 GMT).

The visit comes on the first anniversary of Abe's taking office as prime minister.

It will be the first visit by a sitting prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine to mark the end of World War II in 2006.

Abe, who has visited previously when he was not prime minister, has expressed extreme regret over his decision not to visit Yasukuni during his first one-year term in office in 2006-2007.

Visits to the shrine by Japanese politicians have long been a point of friction with China and South Korea, because of Japan's brutal aggression during World War II.

Adding to the unease of Japan's neighbors is Abe's support for revising Japan's pacifist constitution and expanding the military to counter rising tensions over a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China.