Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, government sources said Saturday, a move that may help soothe ties with China and South Korea.
Abe is also considering visiting China in early September for a summit with President Xi Jinping, the sources said.
Past visits by prime ministers and Cabinet members to the shrine in Tokyo have provoked outcries in China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression. Yasukuni honors convicted war criminals along with millions of war dead.
Instead of visiting it, Abe is expected to send a ritual offering to the Shinto shrine, as he did on the anniversary after taking office in late 2012, an apparent effort to maintain support from nationalists.
Abe visited the shrine in December 2013, sparking fierce criticism from the United States, Japan’s key ally, as well as from China and South Korea.
With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Abe will release a statement this week, closely watched by the former victims of Japanese aggression, as Beijing and Seoul share perception that Japan has not done enough to atone for its atrocities before and during the war.
China will hold a major ceremony on Sept. 3 for the anniversary, which it calls its day of victory in an eight-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
Along with other world leaders, China has invited Abe to the commemoration. Abe does not plan to attend the event partly because it includes a major military parade in Tiananmen Square, according to sources. But Abe is considering visiting Beijing either before or after Sept. 3 for what could be his third meeting with Xi.