The former U.S. State Department official Kurt Campbell has warned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stay away from the militarist Yasukuni Shrine or risk further alienating neighbors.
The shrine in downtown Tokyo honors convicted war criminals among the country's fallen and houses a museum celebrating Japan's wars of aggression.
Campbell in a video message to a seminar in Tokyo on Wednesday said Abe should be careful because a visit to the shrine could destabilize Japan's relations with Korea and China.
If Abe visits the shrine, Japan could undermine the success of the "soft power" that it has built in Asia, he said, which would not be in its strategic interest.
Abe has twice sent lavish ceremonial offerings to the shrine and recently expressed regret that he did not visit it during his first term as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.
But Campbell towed the Washington party line by saying it is only natural that Japan is mooting the deployment of Japanese troop aboard in response to the rapidly changing security environment.
Abe wants to change Japan's pacifist postwar constitution so troops can engage in so-called collective self-defense, whereby they intervene abroad if an ally is in some way under threat.