Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe honored the anniversary of the nation's World War II surrender by sending an offering to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on August 15.
The historical war memorial has been highly criticized due to the attention given to war criminals. Of the 2,466,532 names inscribed in the shrine’s Book of Souls, over 1,000 were war criminals. Of those, 14 were convicted of war crimes by an Allied tribunal.
Neighboring nations, such as China, South Korea, and North Korea, consider the shrine to be a tribute to Japan's militaristic past and it has consequently become a sore subject in international relations.
Though Abe has not personally visited the shrine since 2012, he has continued to send regular donations to the memorial.
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Masahiko Shibayama, who made the offering on Abe's behalf, said the prime minister asked him to pray for the souls of the departed and that Abe regretted being unable to pay his respects in person.
China's relations with Japan have long been haunted by what Beijing sees as Tokyo's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two, although ties have thawed somewhat recently. Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945 and bitter memories still rankle.
Abe was due to speak at a separate annual memorial ceremony for war dead later on Wednesday that will also be attended by Emperor Akihito - the last time he will take part in the event before abdicating next year.
Akihito, 84, has carved out an active role as a symbol of peace, democracy, and reconciliation during his three decades on the throne, visiting wartime battlefields to pray for the war dead of all nationalities.
Akihito's father, Emperor Hirohito, in whose name the Japanese fought World War Two, stopped visiting Yasukuni after the wartime leaders were first honoured by the shrine in 1978, and Akihito does not pay his respects there.