Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent Friday a ritual offering to Tokyo’s controversial war-linked Yasukuni Shrine for its annual spring festival, but is expected to forgo a visit in person.
Abe has not visited the Shinto shrine since December 2013 — a year after he became prime minister for the second time — instead making the same “masakaki” offerings for spring and autumn festivals.
But members of a cross-party group of lawmakers including some Cabinet ministers have made regular visits, and are expected to go to the shrine at some point during the festival that ends Sunday.
The shrine honors Japanese World War II leaders who were convicted of war crimes by a post-war international tribunal, along with millions of war dead.
It is regarded as a symbol of Japan’s 20th century militarism in neighboring countries such as China and South Korea, which suffered from Japanese wartime brutality.
The Abe administration is likely keen to avoid straining ties with China, having recently been emphasizing the importance of China’s role in urging North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile development efforts.
Welfare minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki and the speakers of both houses of the Diet also sent ritual offerings Friday, according to the shrine.