Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will refrain from making a spring visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine to avoid angering Japan's Asian neighbors, but will send a gift to appease conservatives at home.
Abe will dedicate a "masakaki," a ritual implement, during Yasukuni's April 21-23 spring festival. According to a senior government official, the gift will be presented under the name of the prime minister, although it will be paid for out of Abe's pocket.
Abe also offered a masakaki in 2007, during his first tenure as prime minister.
Although Abe will be an April no-show, he is expected to seek an opportunity to visit Yasukuni Shrine--which honors the nation’s war dead as well as Class-A war criminals--after an Upper House election this summer.
Yasuhiro Nakasone and Taro Aso did the same when they served as prime minister.
Critics say a gift to Yasukuni Shrine under the name of the prime minister--like his visit to the shrine--violates the principle of separation of state and religion.
When Abe presented a masakaki in 2007, China called for prudence, but avoided direct criticism.
On March 29, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei called on Abe not to visit Yasukuni Shrine.
“We hope that Japan will firmly stand by its traditional stance and promise (that it reflects on its history of aggression during World War II),” Hong said.
Abe won his second stint as prime minister after his Liberal Democratic Party retook the reins of government following its landslide victory over the Democratic Party of Japan in the Dec. 16 Lower House election.
When Abe ran for the LDP presidency in September, he said it was “extremely regrettable” that he failed to visit Yasukuni Shrine during his first term of office.
Abe visited the shrine as LDP president during its autumn festival in October. He suggested that he might pay a visit when he became prime minister after the LDP won the election.
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