Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering Monday to Yasukuni Shrine, a source of perennial diplomatic friction with China and South Korea.
Abe made the masakaki tree offering under the name of the prime minister, the war-linked shrine in Tokyo said.
Abe is likely to refrain from visiting the Shinto shrine during its four-day autumn festival through Thursday, ahead of expected summit talks with China and South Korea later this year.
Yasukuni Shrine honors millions of the nation’s war dead, as well as convicted World War II war criminals. The shrine is seen in China and on the Korea Peninsula as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Among Cabinet members and senior lawmakers, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima and Upper House President Chuichi Date also made ritual offerings.
Abe visited the shrine in December 2013, drawing immediate rebukes from China and South Korea, which suffered from Japanese wartime brutality.
During its annual spring and autumn festivals, he has sent the ritual offerings without visiting the shrine.
Past visits by prime ministers to Yasukuni have outraged Beijing and Seoul because it honors several Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with war dead.
Abe has only visited the shrine in person once, in December 2013, since becoming prime minister the previous year. Keen to improve ties with China and South Korea, strained by territorial disputes, Abe has instead opted to send ritual offerings on several occasions.
Attention is focused on whether Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who has been accused by China of recklessly misrepresenting wartime history, will visit or make an offering.
On the last occasion for high-profile Yasukuni visits, the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, the newly appointed Inada was visiting troops in Djibouti and unable to go to the shrine.
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