Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has sent a ritual offering to a controversial shrine that honours the country’s war dead but is seen as a symbol of past militarism.
Kishida sent a “masakaki” ceremonial tree on the occasion of the Yasukuni shrine’s autumn festival on Monday.
But he is likely to refrain from visiting the shrine during the two-day festival, the Kyodo news agency said, citing people close to the leader.
No Japanese prime minister has visited the shrine since 2013 when a trip by then-premier Shinzo Abe sparked fury in Beijing and Seoul and a rare diplomatic rebuke from close ally the United States.
The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo honours 2.5 million mostly Japanese war dead who perished since the late 19th century, including convicted war criminals.
Trips to the shrine by government officials have angered countries that suffered Japanese military atrocities, particularly China and South Korea.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno declined to comment on Kishida’s offering during a daily press conference, saying the prime minister sent it as a “private person”.
But the Kyodo news agency said the masakaki was sent with a board that stated “prime minister”.
A spokeswoman for the Yasukuni shrine said Sanae Takaichi, the minister in charge of economic security, visited the shrine on Monday during the festival.
Trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura went to the shrine on Friday, before the festival began.