Tokyo, Oct 17 (efe-epa).- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Saturday sent an offering to the controversial shrine for war dead in Tokyo that is seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of the Japanese empire’s military aggression.
It was Prime Minister Suga’s first such offering to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors the Japanese war dead between the end of the 19th century and 1945, including 14 politicians and imperial army officers convicted of war crimes by an international tribunal at the end of World War II.
Suga, who took office last month, followed his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who used to send offerings to the shrine regularly on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II and paying tributes to the Japanese who fell in military conflicts.
The present sent a plant or a small tree in a pot, known as “masakaki” in Japan for the shrine, fulfilling a ritual repeated twice a year during the shrine’s spring and autumn festivals, according to the public broadcaster NHK.
But the prime minister like Abe refrained from visiting in person to avoid angering China and South Korea.
Tributes by Japanese officials to the shrine often lead to protests from China and South Korea, who see it as one of the relics of Japan’s militaristic past.
Abe used to visit the shrine with his offering until 2013, amid criticism within and outside the country. He later chose to send offerings.
China and South Korea, countries that suffered war attacks from Japan, have often expressed their protests against the official tributes to Yasukuni due to old wounds linked to Japan’s colonial past.
Last year in October, Seiichi Eto, a cabinet minister in Abe’s government, was the first to visit the shrine in two and a half years, while the then prime minister sent his offering as he has done since 2014.
Asked by reporters about the visit, Suga, who was the chief cabinet secretary in Abe’s government, refrained from making comments and termed it as an act of a personal nature.
The earlier visit by a member of Abe’s government was in April 2017 by Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi. EFE-EPA