Wife of Japan PM visits Yasukuni Shrine days after husband stayed away

Akie Abe posted a picture of herself standing next to a senior priest on her Facebook page on Tuesday.
Akie Abe posted a picture of herself standing next to a senior priest on her Facebook page on Tuesday. PHOTO: AKIE ABE / FACEBOOK

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - The wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a Tokyo war shrine, days after he stayed away from the controversial place of worship on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Akie Abe posted a picture of herself standing next to a senior priest on her Facebook page on Tuesday. She wrote that it felt different to the last time she paid her respects in May because it came after she went to the Chiran airbase in southern Japan, a departure point for kamikaze pilots during the war.

Akie may have visited the shrine to appease her husband's nationalist base after he made a statement that noted the "immeasurable damage and suffering" that Japan inflicted on neighbouring countries.

While her previous Yasukuni trip didn't draw any public expressions of anger from China or South Korea, Tuesday's visit comes amid reports that the prime minister is considering a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next month.

Rather than making a personal visit on Aug 15., Shinzo Abe made a donation to the shrine that honors millions of Japanese war dead, including 14 wartime leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals.

Criticism by China and South Korea of his statement the previous day was muted, despite Abe trying to draw a line under official apologies for the war by saying Japan shouldn't be expected to continually apologize for a conflict that ended 70 years ago.

Abe's own visit to Yasukuni in December 2013 led to a deterioration in relations with China and South Korea and prompted a rebuke from the US.