(Recasts with more lawmakers visiting shrine, adds quotes, paragraphs 1, 4, 8-9)
TOKYO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Japanese internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo and more than 100 other lawmakers visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Friday, a move likely to anger Asian victims of Japan's past aggression.
The visits came a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his third ritual offering to the shrine since returning to office in December. Abe has not visited the shrine in person to avoid further straining ties with China and South Korea.
China's Foreign Ministry admonished Abe on Thursday, telling him not to go there in person out of respect for China and "other victimized countries". South Korea also expressed its disappointment.
Similar rebukes can be expected after Friday's visits, which included 157 lawmakers and took place during the shrine's autumn festival that lasts until Sunday.
"I visited the shrine in a private capacity," Shindo said, noting that his grandfather is among the thousands of war dead honoured there.
"I do not think this will become a diplomatic issue."
As well as Japan's war dead, Yasukuni also honours Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, making it a painful reminder to nations that suffered from Japanese aggression in the 20th century.
Deputy chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that he was among those who went to the shrine.
"I think that it's only natural to pray for the repose of the souls of people who have given their precious lives for the nation," Kato said.
Sino-Japanese ties have been overshadowed for years by what China says has been Japan's refusal to admit to atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China between 1931 and 1945.
Memories of a brutal Japanese occupation also remain strong in South Korea, where the Foreign Ministry expressed "deep concern and regret" that Abe had made his ritual offering.
Ties with China have been fraught for months because of a territorial dispute over islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Japan's relations with South Korea have also cooled over a separate territorial dispute.
Shindo, who visited Yasukuni on Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of World War Two, is one of two cabinet ministers who were considering visiting the shrine during the autumn festival.
Abe is seen as a hawkish nationalist with a conservative agenda that includes revising the post-war pacifist constitution, strengthening Japan's defence posture and recasting wartime history with a less apologetic tone.
He has said he regretted not visiting the shrine when he was prime minister in 2006-2007. (Reporting by Elaine Lies and Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Paul Tait)