Japan on Thursday marked the 68th anniversary of its
surrender in World War II amid strained relations with neighbouring
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pushed his nationalist platform, reportedly decided not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, a controversial war memorial honouring the nation's 2.5 million war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals from World War II.
The decision was made out of concern that a visit would further deteriorate ties with neighbouring countries, especially China and South Korea, the Kyodo News agency reported, citing unnamed government sources.
He was instead to pay for a sacred tree branch which will be used in rituals at the shrine, the report said.
Some ministers of his cabinet were expected to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday.
Visits by political leaders to the memorial infuriate neighbouring Asian countries, especially China and South Korea, which see it as glorifying Japan's wartime aggression.
The United States also expressed concern about the nationalist views of Abe and members of his cabinet. Their visits to the shrine "could again spike tension in the region," a US Congressional Research Service report said.
On Thursday, Abe was scheduled to visit the National Cemetery in Tokyo, where he would leave an offering of flowers for the unknown Japanese soldiers who perished overseas during the war, Kyodo said.
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