TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Saturday (Aug 15), the 75th anniversary of Japan's World War II defeat, a ruling party lawmaker said, but refrained from a personal visit that would anger Beijing and Seoul.
At least two cabinet ministers paid their respects in person at the shrine. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, 39, often floated as a future premier, visited the shrine, as did Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda, a close Abe ally.
Abe has not gone to Yasukuni in person since a December 2013 visit that outraged China and South Korea, but sent offerings via an aide.
"I came to deliver a message from (ruling Liberal Democratic Party) President Abe that he paid his respects from the heart to the war dead and prayed for the rest and permanent peace of their souls," said ruling party lawmaker Shuichi Takatori, who made the offering on Abe's behalf.
Past visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged South Korea and China because the shrine, dedicated to the country's 2.5 million war dead, also honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal.
Men and women of all ages braved scorching heat amid the novel coronavirus pandemic to pay their respects at Yasukuni, where markers helped people keep social distance while lining up and signs urged them to avoid clustering due to COVID-19 concerns. Japan has not seen an explosive surge but cases are rising.
Abe, as well as Emperor Naruhito, will attend a separate official, secular ceremony later in the day that has been scaled down due to concerns over the pandemic.
The United States and Japan have become staunch security allies in the decades since the war's end but its legacy still haunts East Asia.
Koreans, who mark the date as National Liberation Day, resent Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the peninsula. China has bitter memories of imperial troops' invasion and occupation of parts of the country from 1931-1945.
Japan's ties with South Korea especially are strained by a dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work in Japan's wartime mines and factories, as well as over "comfort women", as those made to work in Japanese military brothels are euphemistically known.
"Let's not talk about the past, let's look at the future. I hope that Japan and South Korea can come closer together," said Ayaka Soma, 27, a freelance researcher visiting Yasukuni.
Consensus over the war remains elusive within Japan, where more than 80 per cent of people were born after the conflict's end.
Naruhito, grandson of wartime Emperor Hirohito and Japan'sRead More – Source