Abe makes ritual offering to controversial Yasukuni shrine

TOKYO • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a ritual offering to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, seen by neighbouring countries as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past.

Mr Abe donated a sacred "masakaki" tree, bearing his name as prime minister, to coincide with the start of the four-day autumn festival at the shrine in central Tokyo, a shrine official said yesterday.

But he will likely stop short of visiting in person, local media said, ahead of his planned visit to Seoul for a trilateral summit scheduled on Nov 1 with South Korea and China.

He is also expected to hold his first official bilateral meeting with South Korean President Park Geun Hye on the sidelines of the summit, Kyodo News and other reports said.

A visit by Mr Abe to the war shrine would infuriate neighbouring countries, especially China and South Korea, where the site is seen as a potent symbol of Japan's lack of penitence over its aggression during the first half of the 20th century.

The shrine honours Japan's war dead, including some military and political figures convicted of serious crimes in the wake World War II.

The accompanying museum also paints Japan as a frustrated liberator of Asia and victim of the war.

Mr Abe's pilgrimage to the shrine in December 2013 sparked fury in Asia and earned him a diplomatic slap on the wrist from the United States, which said it was "disappointed".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'Abe makes ritual offering to controversial Yasukuni shrine'. Print Edition | Subscribe