Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sent a ritual offering Saturday to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which is seen by neighboring countries as a symbol of the nation's past militarism, especially during World War II.
It marked the first time that Suga sent such an offering to the war shrine since he took office in September. But it also honors senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an worldwide tribunal after WWII.
The prime minister sent a sacred masakaki tree in the name of the prime minister at the start of an annual autumn festival, a shrine spokeswoman said.
Abe's pilgrimage to the shrine in 2013 sparked outrage in China and ROK and an expression of "disappointment" from the United States.
Abe visited the shrine last month for the first time in almost seven years.
The South Korean government "expresses deep regret that Japan's government and congressional leaders have again dedicated an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine which glorify Japan's past invasions", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday.
China has always firmly opposed these kinds of acts by Japanese politicians, stressing that it has broken the spirit of the four political documents between the two countries and urging Japan to earnestly implement the four-point principled agreement reached in late 2014 and reflect deeply on the history of its aggression.
Ties between Tokyo and Seoul have also remained strained due to bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula, including a dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work on Japan's sites during wartime. Tokyo says the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty normalising bilateral relations.