Abe Sends Ritual Offering To Yasukuni Shrine

Abe sends ritual offering to Yasukuni ShrinePrime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering on Monday to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on the 71st anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.
The premier is likely to refrain from visiting the Shinto shrine during the day in a bid to limit damage to Japan's ties with China and South Korea, two countries that suffered from Japan's wartime brutality.

Japan's two neighbors view Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, saying that lawmakers who visit the shrine are glossing over wartime history. The shrine honors convicted war criminals, including Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, along with Japan's war dead.

Abe, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, sent his aide, Yasutoshi Nishimura, to make the offering on his behalf as party leader, not prime minister, a move viewed as an attempt to appease his conservative supporters without exacerbating relations with other countries. He paid for the offering himself.

Abe last visited Yasukuni in December 2013, upsetting China and South Korea and disappointing its main ally, the United States.

Abe's likely decision not to visit the shrine comes as the government is making arrangements for talks between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the fringes of a Group of 20 gathering to be held in China next month.

Recently, Japan has warned that ties with China are worsening, citing Chinese government vessels' repeated entry into Japanese waters near the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China calls the islets Diaoyu.

Visits by Abe's Cabinet ministers are still likely to irk Beijing and Seoul.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers promoting Yasukuni visits -- which regularly pays visits during the shrine's festivals in April and October -- also visited the shrine on Monday morning. In last year's anniversary of Japan's WWII surrender, about 70 lawmakers from the group paid their respects en masse.

Among the newly appointed Cabinet members, Masahiro Imamura, minister for reconstruction of disaster-hit regions, visited the shrine on Thursday.

Tomomi Inada, who has regularly visited the shrine prior to becoming the new defense minister, did not pay a visit on Monday due to her four-day trip to Djibouti from Saturday to offer encouragement to Self-Defense Forces members engaged in an antipiracy mission off Somalia.