Tokyo (dpa) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered a ritual offering to a controversial war-linked shrine in Tokyo Saturday, about two weeks before a possible meeting with leaders of China and South Korea.
Abe sent a religious ornament with his name and title, according to officials at the Yasukuni Shrine, which started its four-day annual autumn festival.
The premier is not expected to visit the shrine himself, which honours the spirits of Japan’s 2.5 million war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II.
Visits by political leaders to the shrine infuriate neighbouring Asian countries, especially China and South Korea, which see it as glorifying Japan’s wartime aggression.
Abe made the offering Saturday, one day after he said he expressed his willingness to hold bilateral meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on the sidelines of a trilateral summit, scheduled for early November in Seoul.
Abe and Park have never held a one-on-one meeting since both took office in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Japan’s relations with the two countries have been strained over differing perceptions of wartime history and territorial disputes.