TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent on Friday an offering to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine again, a practice that usually generates friction with neighboring countries as the shrine is seen as a connection to Japan’s militarist past.
Abe sent a small tree as a ritual offering on the occasion of the shrine’s annual spring festival, local media reported.
Although he is not expected to visit the shrine in person, it is likely that countries such as South Korea and China, which suffered under Japanese colonial rule until the middle of the 20th century, will again protest against the offering, as on previous occasions.
A group of Japanese parliamentarians, including some cabinet ministers, are also expected to visit the shrine between Friday and Sunday, when the spring festival ends.
The Abe administration is expected to avoid gestures that could infuriate China, as Tokyo seeks better ties with Beijing amid rising tension in the region due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The Yasukuni Shrine honors those who died for Japan between the late 19th century until 1945, including 14 politicians and Imperial Army officers convicted as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal at the end of World War II.
Between the beginning of the 20th century and the end of this war, Japan colonized the Korean peninsula, Manchuria and other regions of China, and occupied much of Southeast Asia.
Abe last visited the Yasukuni Shrine as the head of the government in December 2013, which triggered strong protests from China and South Korea, while Washington, Tokyo’s main strategic ally, suggested that the prime minister should not repeat such visits.
Since then, Abe has avoided visiting the shrine personally, although he has sent offerings for the shrine’s autumn and spring festivals, in what is considered a nod to his more conservative followers.