• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, sources close to him said.

The decision could help ease tensions with China and South Korea.

The Shinto shrine in Tokyo honors convicted Class-A war criminals along with millions of Japan’s war dead. China and South Korea view Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism and have criticized previous visits to the shrine by prime ministers and other politicians.

Abe, who before taking office for the second time indicated he might visit the shrine, has taken note of Washington’s desire to avoid further tension and instability in the region, the government and ruling party sources said late Thursday.

Abe did not visit Yasukuni during his previous stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, an omission that he later described as “extremely regrettable.”

Some members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party are hoping he will instead visit the shrine during its autumn festival in October.

After strengthening his grip on power with a big victory in the Upper House election last month, Abe is trying to ease tensions with China and South Korea over the territorial disputes as well as perceptions of history.

“I hope there is discussion without reserve between national leaders and between foreign ministers,” Abe said in a speech a week ago in Singapore, suggesting his intention to mend ties with China and South Korea.

Even if Abe chooses not to visit Yasukuni on Aug. 15, some Cabinet members are likely to show up. Abe has said it is up to them to decide.

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and some other ministers visited the shrine during the spring festival in April, triggering criticism from China and South Korea.