Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering worth about 50,000 Japanese yen to the militarist Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday, a move seen as avoiding a personal visit to the shrine.
Visits to Yasukuni by previous Japanese prime ministers invariably chilled relations with Korea and China to freezing point since it honors convicted World War II criminals among the country’s war dead.
Abe made the offering to mark the shrine's autumn festival, which runs from Thursday until Sunday. He also sent an offering to the shrine during the spring festival in April.
Abe had said he felt "bitter grief" for failing to pay homage at the shrine when he was prime minister from 2006 to 2007.
The Mainichi Shimbun said Abe avoided visiting the shrine for fear of agitating Korea and China. The two neighbors have already canceled a summit with Japan and are freezing out Tokyo diplomatically, and Abe clearly wanted to avoid further exacerbating the situation.
Japan's ties with its neighbors are frayed due to territorial claims and attempts by the Abe administration to whitewash their country's World War II atrocities.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the prime minister's decision resulted from a "broad perspective."
But around 100 Japanese politicians plan to visit the shrine on Friday to mark the autumn festival. Ordinary Japanese visitors flocked to the shrine from Thursday evening.