TOKYO — Tensions between Japan and its Asian neighbors rose Tuesday when a large group of Japanese lawmakers paid a symbolically charged visit to a Tokyo war shrine, while Chinese paramilitary ships and a flotilla of boats carrying Japanese nationalists appeared to converge on disputed islands.
The group of 168 conservative lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo in what local news media described as the largest mass visit by Parliament members in recent memory.
The shrine of the indigenous Shinto religion honors Japan’s war dead, including several who were executed as war criminals after World War II. This has made Yasukuni, and the political leaders who visit it, a target of criticism by China and South Korea.
On Tuesday, the Japanese coast guard reported that eight Chinese patrol ships had entered waters near the islands, the largest number to appear at one time since the dispute flared up last summer.
The Chinese ships appeared at the same time as 10 boats carrying members of a Japanese fringe ultranationalist group also arrived off the islands.