|Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a memorial service for war victims in Tokyo on Aug 15, 2014 as the country marks the 69th anniversary of its surrender in World War II. (AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI)|
TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A convicted war criminals among 2.5 million Japanese war dead from WWII.
Along with Abe's offering, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki and the speakers of both houses of the Diet also sent ritual offerings to the shrine on the occasion of its annual spring festival.
The war-linked Yasukuni Shrine is regarded as a symbol of past Japanese militarism.
Although ritual offerings and visits to the shrine draw staunch criticism from neighboring countries, around 90 Japanese cross-party lawmakers visited the shrine on Friday and Seiichi Eto, an aide to the prime minister and a ruling Liberal Democratic Party upper house lawmaker, also made a visit.
|People visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors millions of Japanese war dead but also senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II, in Tokyo on Dec 29, 2016. (Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)|
Some of Abe's Cabinet ministers may also visit the controversial shrine during the festival that concludes on Sunday, informed sources said.
Abe is reportedly to refrain from visiting the notorious shrine during the festival in person in an effort to prevent further damage to Japan's relationship with China and South Korea.
Visits and ritual offerings made by proxy to the infamous shrine by Japanese leaders and officials have consistently sparked strong criticism from its victimized Asian neighbors during WWII, including China and South Korea.