National

Abe won't visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine during autumn festival, sources say

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, viewed as a symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism by neighboring countries, during its annual autumn festival, government and ruling party sources said Tuesday.

But he is expected to send a ritual offering to the Shinto shrine through an official of his Liberal Democratic Party during the four-day ceremony from Thursday, as he did in recent years for Yasukuni’s spring and autumn festivals and on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Abe has refrained from paying tribute in person at the shrine since late 2013. Asked about the possibility of a visit by the prime minister at a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, said, “The prime minister will make an appropriate judgment and so will I.”

Visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have angered the country’s neighbors, particularly China and South Korea, as the site honors convicted war criminals including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, along with more than 2.4 million war dead.

Among Abe’s Cabinet members, Defense Minister Taro Kono said he had “no plan” to visit the shrine.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who assumed his first ministerial post in a Cabinet reshuffle last month, also said he would “make a proper judgment.” The 38-year-old rising star visited the shrine on Aug. 15 this year.

Kazunori Tanaka, the minister in charge of reconstructing areas in Tohoku affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, said he has yet to decide whether to visit Yasukuni, as he is busy dealing with the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, which caused severe damage in the region.

National Public Safety Commission chief Ryota Takeda, and Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, have also yet to confirm their plans.