By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent an offering to a controversial Tokyo shrine for war dead visited by members of his cabinet on Monday, the 77th anniversary of Japans World War Two surrender, moves set to anger South Korea and China.
With the Yasukuni Shrine regarded as a symbol of Japans past military aggression, Japans ties with China already are particularly strained this season after it conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following a visit there by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month.
Through the drills, several missiles fell in waters inside Japans Exclusive Economic Zone.
The commemoration at Yasukuni, a niche site that honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, in addition to war dead, leaves Kishida facing a tricky balancing act.
On the dovish side of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), he must avoid irking international neighbours and partners while still keeping the more right-wing members of the party happy, particularly following the killing of party kingpin Shinzo Abe last month.
Kishida sent an offering to the shrine without visiting, Kyodo news agency reported. He sent offerings to Yasukuni during festivals this past year which spring.
Footage on broadcaster NHK showed the shrine being visited in early stages Monday by several cabinet ministers, including Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi. Earlier the website was visited by Koichi Hagiuda, the top of the LDPs policy research council and an integral ally of slain former prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
I’m unaware of if the Prime Minister will visit Yasukuni Shrine or not, and I really believe that he can make the correct decision, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference on Monday.
It really is natural for just about any country to cover respect to those that gave their lives because of their country, Matsuno said. Japan will continue steadily to strengthen its relations using its neighbours, including China and South Korea.
Several lawmakers that normally visit en masse on Aug 15 said the other day they might not achieve this because of recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Kishida avoided paying his respects personally on the anniversary of the wars end while he was a cabinet minister and LDP official, but has sent offerings to both Yasukuni festivals which have occurred since he took office last October. He, along with Emperor Naruhito, will attend another, secular ceremony later in your day.
Abe was the final prime minister in recent memory to go to Yasukuni during office, in 2013 a trip that outraged both China and South Korea and also drew a rebuke from its close ally america.
AMERICA and Japan have grown to be staunch security allies in the decades because the wars end, but its legacy still haunts East Asia.
Koreans, who mark the date as National Liberation Day, resent Japans 1910-1945 colonisation of the peninsula, while China has bitter memories of imperial troops invasion and occupation of places from 1931-1945.
(Additional reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)