Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is leaning toward not visiting war-related Yasukuni Shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, administration sources said Tuesday.
Abe intends to avoid a further worsening of Japan’s relations with China at a time when he is looking for a meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing in November.
Past visits by prime ministers and Cabinet members to Yasukuni have angered China and South Korea, both of which suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression, as it honors convicted war criminals alongside with millions of war dead.
Abe, however, is considering sending a ritual offering to the shrine, as he did on Aug. 15 last year.
While complying with calls from Chinese and Koreans to refrain, Abe will try to maintain support from his conservative base by not compromising too much, according to the sources.
Abe has been unable to hold a summit with Xi since he assumed the premiership in December 2012.
In late July, Abe sent a personal message to Xi through former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda saying the two leaders should meet to repair bilateral relations, according to a diplomatic source.
Fukuda secretly met with Xi during his visit to China as chairman of the nongovernmental Boao Forum for Asia.
Abe’s visit to the Shinto shrine last December angered not only China and South Korea but also disappointed the United States, Japan’s closest security ally.
One of the sources said that “the prime minister has made a long-sought visit (to Yasukuni), so he does not need to go again.”
Abe said in the past he greatly regretted not visiting the shrine when he first served as prime minister between 2006 and 2007.