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Abe to skip Yasukuni visit during spring festival

Tokyo, April 17 (Jiji Press) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to refrain from visiting war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo during its three-day spring festival from Sunday, sources in the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Wednesday.

Abe is apparently aiming to prevent Japan-China relations from deteriorating again, ahead of the summit of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies in Osaka, western Japan, in June.

Instead, he plans to make a ritual offering of a “masakaki” tree stand to the shrine, the sources said.

The Shinto shrine in Chiyoda Ward in the Japanese capital is regarded as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism by China and South Korea as it honors Class-A World War II criminals among the war dead.

The Japan-China relationship has been improving recently, after years of deterioration partly reflecting Abe’s Yasukuni visit in December 2013, the only confirmed visit to the shrine by the prime minister since he returned to the post a year before.

On the sidelines of the two-day G-20 summit from June 28, Abe plans to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, hoping to highlight the improvement in the ties between the two Asian neighbors.

While trade friction between the United States and China remains fierce, Abe hopes to make the G-20 summit a success by taking advantage of Tokyo’s favorable relations with Washington and Beijing, the sources said.

Abe is set to visit Europe and the United States from Monday as part of preparations for the G-20 summit.

After the December 2013 visit, Abe has offered masakaki to the shrine during its spring and autumn festivals and “tamagushi” ritual offerings on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II every year, without paying a visit to the shrine.

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