Japan PM Abe sends ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine to mark annual autumn festival

A wooden sign which reads "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe" is seen on a ritual offering in the Yasukuni Shrine on Oct 17, 2016.
A wooden sign which reads "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe" is seen on a ritual offering in the Yasukuni Shrine on Oct 17, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
People visit the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on Aug 15, 2016, the 71st anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.
People visit the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on Aug 15, 2016, the 71st anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Monday (Oct 17) to mark the annual autumn festival of the shrine, Kyodo News said.

The shrine is seen in China and the two Koreas as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Past visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged Beijing and Seoul because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with war dead.

Mr Abe has only visited the shrine in person once, in December 2013, since becoming premier the previous year. Keen to improve ties with China and South Korea, strained by territorial disputes, Mr Abe has instead opted to send ritual offerings on several occasions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Yasukuni enshrined war criminals. “We resolutely oppose this wrong move by a Japanese government dignitary,” Ms Hua told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

Attention is focused on whether Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, who has been accused by China of recklessly misrepresenting wartime history, will visit or make an offering at the shrine.

On the previous occasion for high-profile Yasukuni visits, the Aug 15 anniversary of Japan's surrender, the newly appointed Inada was visiting troops in Djibouti and unable to go to the shrine.