TOKYO (XINHUA, AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sent a ritual offering on Wednesday (April 21) to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine, seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, on the occasion of its spring festival.
Mr Suga will not, however, visit the controversial shrine in person during the two-day festival through Thursday.
The Japanese leader took the same approach for the shrine's autumn festival last October when he also sent a ritual "masakaki" tree offering. His Cabinet members refrained form visiting the shrine during the last autumn festival.
Mr Suga's ministers have said they will also refrain from visiting the war-linked shrine in the upcoming days, although Health Minister Norihisa Tamura and Mr Shinji Inoue, Minister for the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka, also sent ritual trees for the spring festival.
The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo honours some 2.5 million war dead, mostly Japanese, who died in the country’s wars since the late 19th century.
But it also honours senior military and political figures including 14 Class-A convicted war criminals in World War II, along with its historically inaccurate museum. A testament to Japan's past militarism, the Shinto shrine has long been a source of diplomatic friction between Japan and its neighbours.
Visits and ritual offerings made in person or by proxy to the shrine by Japanese leaders, officials and lawmakers have consistently sparked strong criticism from - and hurt the feelings of - China and South Korea as well as other countries brutalised by Japan during World War II.
Mr Suga's predecessor Shinzo Abe was the last prime minister to visit the controversial shrine in person in December 2013, after which he was strongly condemned by China and South Korea, as well as the United States, who said at the time that it was disappointed with Mr Abe's decision.
Mr Abe had sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine during its spring and autumn festivals every year since he launched his administration in 2012.