Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual donation to a controversial Tokyo war shrine Monday — the 71st anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II — but avoided visiting in an apparent nod to China and South Korea.

Yasukuni Shrine honours millions of mostly Japanese war dead, as well as senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after the war.


The indigenous Shinto religious shrine has for decades been a flashpoint for criticism by countries that suffered from Japan’s colonialism and aggression in the first half of the 20th century.

Abe visited in December 2013 to mark his first year in power, a pilgrimage that sparked fury in Beijing and Seoul and earned a diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States, which said it was “disappointed” by the action.

He and other nationalists say the shrine is merely a place to remember fallen soldiers and compare it to burial grounds such as Arlington National Cemetery in the US.

But he has since refrained from going and reactions by China and South Korea to Yasukuni visits by Cabinet ministers and lawmakers, while remaining critical, have become less intense.

Abe sent the offering Monday as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — not as prime minister — in an apparent bid to lessen any criticism.

Speaking to reporters, Yasutoshi Nishimura, a party aide to Abe who made the donation on his behalf, said it came from Abe’s own money.

“Personally, I offered my condolences to the spirits of the war dead who fought for the country,” he told reporters on a muggy morning in Tokyo amid the sound of chirping cicadas. [/restrict]