South Korea lashed out at Japan Sunday over an offering to a war shrine by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the latest diplomatic offensive ahead of a trilateral summit with China.
The Foreign Ministry also criticized Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
Takaichi told reporters the visit was meant to express her heartfelt gratitude to those who sacrificed themselves for Japan and it is "a matter that has nothing to do with diplomatic relations."
South Korea condemned the Japanese move as nothing but an act to beautify Japan's colonial rule and wartime aggression.
Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945 and controlled much of China in the early part of the 20th century.
The Japanese move "runs counter to our efforts to improve relations with Japan through a trilateral summit with China," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
South Korea and China view the Yasukuni shrine -- which honors over 2.4 million war dead, including 14 convicted World War II criminals -- as a symbol of Japan's past imperialism.
The Foreign Ministry also said a stable development of relations between South Korea and Japan can be possible only when Japan demonstrates by action humble reflection and repentance based on a "correct" recognition of history.
The Japanese move came as President Park Geun-hye prepares to host the leaders of China and Japan for a trilateral summit in early November.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday in a joint news conference with Park in Washington that the trilateral summit "can be another step forward in building positive relations between South Korea, Japan and China."
A trilateral summit has not been held since May 2012 due to tensions over Japan's attempts to whitewash its wartime atrocities and colonial occupation. (Yonhap)