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Japanese PM Again Skips Visit to Controversial War Shrine

A visitor bows to pay respects to the war dead as others enter Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to a controversial shrine honoring the country's fallen soldiers from World War II, avoiding a personal visit in order not to anger rivals China and South Korea.

Abe sent the offering to the Yasukuni Shrine Monday as the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, not as prime minister, as Japan marked the 71st anniversary of its defeat at the hands of Allied forces.

In addition to millions of war dead, Yasukuni Shrine also honors several military and political figures convicted of war crimes. Abe's last visit to the shrine in December 2013 irritated Beijing and Seoul, who see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's militaristic era during the first half of the 20th century, and continue to harbor bitter memories of Japan's wartime occupation.

Dozens of other Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine Monday, including deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda. Notably absent was new Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who has drawn attention for her hawkish stance and remarks that appear to downplay Japan's wartime aggressions. Inada was on an official visit to Djibouti to visit Japanese peacekeepers stationed there.