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Japanese PM's offering for shrine sparks criticism from Seoul

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during the conference Communication Connecting Europe and Asia, in Brussels, Belgium September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Thursday, prompting neighbouring South Korea to call on Japan to reflect on its wartime actions.

Abe sent a “masakaki” ceremonial evergreen branch to the shrine for the autumn festival that runs until Sunday, a spokeswoman at Yasukuni said.

However, domestic media said Abe would not visit the shrine, which is viewed by South Korea and other Asian nations as a symbol of Japan’s past military aggression.

“Our government expresses deep regret that leaders of Japan’s government and parliament once again sent an offering and worshipped at the Yasukuni shrine that beautifies the history of Japan’s aggressive war,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Abe has visited the shrine in Tokyo only once since taking office in 2012, but has regularly sent offerings on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender, and during the shrine’s spring and autumn festivals.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez