Abe sends offering to controversial shrine for Japanese war dead

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead yesterday but held off from visiting what Japan's neighbours view as a symbol of the country's former militarism.

The conservative Premier sent a sacred masakaki tree at the start of an annual spring festival.

The Prime Minister, the Speakers of the Upper and Lower Houses, and the Welfare Minister made offerings, said a shrine spokesman.

Mr Abe's decision not to visit the shrine, which also honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, was seen as partly out of consideration for relations with China, with Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to visit Japan when it hosts a G-20 summit in June.

China's relations with Japan have long been soured by what Beijing sees as Tokyo's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War II, although ties have thawed recently.

In late 2013, Mr Abe sparked widespread international outrage from countries including key ally the United States, and China and South Korea, when he visited the shrine.

Since then, he has sent offerings on the occasion of Yasukuni's spring and autumn festivals and the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender instead of going himself.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2019, with the headline 'Abe sends offering to controversial shrine for Japanese war dead'. Print Edition | Subscribe