Japan PM sends offerings to shrine honoring war criminals, signaling he won't visit

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent religious offerings Tuesday to a Tokyo shrine that honors convicted World War II leaders among its war dead.

But Abe's offerings signal that he will not pray at the controversial Yasukuni shrine ahead of trips to Asia and the United States.

Previous shrine visits and offerings have drawn sharp rebukes from China and South Korea. As victims of Japan's wartime aggression, the two neighbors see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's militarism and visits by Japanese political leaders as a sign of Japan's lack of remorse over its atrocities.

The shrine said Abe sent "masakaki" offerings, with a name card showing his name and official title. Abe sent similar offerings marking both the spring and the fall festivals at the shrine.

The Yasukuni Shrine honors war criminals, including wartime leader Hideki Tojo, among the 2.5 million war dead.

Abe last visited Yasukuni in December 2013, which also drew criticism from Washington.

Abe heads to Indonesia later Tuesday for an Asia-African conference ahead of his U.S. visit next week.

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki also sent similar offerings to the shrine Tuesday, the first day of Yasukuni's spring festival, one of annual events when conservative politicians regularly visit.

Dozens of lawmakers are expected to pray at the shrine on Wednesday.