Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a ritual offering of a sacred tree branch for Yasukuni Shine on Thursday, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, instead of visiting the controversial venue, sources said.
Abe is walking a tightrope between wanting to avoid further damage to ties with China and South Korea while satisfying his conservative supporters by making the offering. He is expected to pay for the offering out of his own pocket as the head of the Liberal Democratic Party, not as the prime minister, the sources said Wednesday.
Yasukuni enshrines the nation's war dead as well as convicted Class-A war criminals. Visits by prime ministers and lawmakers to the Tokyo shrine, seen as a symbol of past militarism, spark outcries in China and South Korea, which suffered from Japanese wartime brutality.
Abe has so far refused to comment on whether he would visit Yasukuni on the anniversary of Japan's surrender in 1945, while adding he won't instruct his ministers one way or the other on whether to visit.
But he said last week that he wants to continue to pay his respects to those who sacrificed their lives for the nation during wartime. "I haven't changed my mind," he told reporters.
Abe did not visit Yasukuni during his previous stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, a decision he later called "extremely regrettable."
Since taking office for the second time in December, Abe has been pursuing conservative policies, including revision of the pacifist Constitution.