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Japan PM sends offering to controversial shrine for war dead

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday sent a ritual offering to the controversial Yasukuni shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals.

The leafy “masakaki” plant was sent for the shrine’s spring festival the same day that over 90 Japanese lawmakers and Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi visited the shrine.

Abe has made regular offerings for Yasukuni’s seasonal festivals but has not visited the shrine since December 2013, a visit that drew rebukes not only from China and South Korea, but also the United States.

As victims of Japan’s aggression before and during World War II, China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s militarism. Past visits by Japanese leaders have sparked criticism from its neighboring countries.

The head of a lawmaker group campaigning for official visits to the Yasukuni Shrine Hidehisa Otsuji said he believed the prime minister’s decision on whether to make personal visits should be “based on the priorities of national interest.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Abe’s offering was made in a “personal capacity,” but declined to comment further.

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