Japan PM Abe sends offering to controversial Yasukuni shrine

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering a speech at a graduation ceremony in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, on March 17, 2019.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering a speech at a graduation ceremony in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, on March 17, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (DPA) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a religious offering to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Sunday (April 21) - the first day of its three-day spring festival.

The premier is expected to refrain from visiting the war memorial in person, long a source of diplomatic tension with other countries, especially China and South Korea.

The premier has not offered prayers at the shrine since December 2013, when his visit sparked an international outcry.

The shrine, which marks its 150th anniversary this year, honours the spirits of the country's 2.46 million war dead, including 14 men charged as Class A war criminals by the Allies after World War II.

Dozens of lawmakers, including some Cabinet ministers, are expected to pay homage at the shrine during the festival.

While some Japanese revere the shrine located in central Tokyo, it is seen as a hated symbol of wartime atrocities by many of Japan's neighbouring countries such as China and the Koreas, which see it as glorifying wartime aggression.

The late emperor Hirohito, who reigned during the war, stopped visiting the shrine due to his displeasure over the 1978 enshrinement of the war criminals.