Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine again while in office, although he may wait until after a visit to China in November to avoid jeopardizing the chances of a summit with President Xi Jinping, according to one of his aides.
“He worshipped there a year after taking office,” Koichi Hagiuda, a Lower House lawmaker who has delivered donations from Abe to the Shinto shrine on anniversaries of the end of World War II, said in an interview Monday. “I think he intends to repeat that.”
Abe’s visit last December to the shrine, which is seen by many in China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past aggression, drew anger from China, and the U.S. said it was “disappointed.”
Lower-level talks between the two countries may be gaining momentum toward an Abe-Xi meeting at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing in November.
“I don’t think he will go before APEC,” Hagiuda, 51, said of Abe, adding that he believes there will be a Japan-China summit during the APEC event. “In the important position of prime minister, if he foresees that worshiping there would cause great damage to the national interest, I think a change in timing would be inevitable.”
Ties between Asia’s two largest economies have been chilled by the Senkaku territorial dispute as well as disagreements over wartime history and visits to Yasukuni. While Abe has held about 200 summit meetings since taking office in December 2012, he has failed to secure a meeting with Xi.
Abe reiterated in the Diet on Monday that he wants a summit with Xi soon, and a series of meetings between diplomats have been held in recent weeks. Japan’s relationship with China is one that “can never be severed,” Abe told lawmakers.
Yasukuni Shrine honors millions of Japanese war dead, as well as several wartime leaders convicted by the Allies as Class-A War criminals after the war.