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Japan's Abe Won't Visit Yasukuni Shrine: Reports

Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe is led by a Shinto priest during his visit to the Yasukuni shrine in 2005 where Japan's war dead including high-ranking war criminals have been enshrined. (File Photo)
Japanese media are reporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided not to make a controversial visit to a Shinto shrine that many view as a symbol of Japan's past military aggression.

The Kyodo and NHK news agencies quoted sources close to Abe as saying the leader will not visit the Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in WWII.

The sources said Abe was concerned a visit to the shrine would further damage ties with South Korea and China. Both countries were victims of Japan's wartime aggression and regularly protest such visits.

The reports said Abe will, however, donate personal funds toward an offering at the shrine, a move that could still anger some Koreans and Chinese.

The Yasukuni Shrine honors 2.5 million of Japan's war dead. This includes some convicted war criminals from World War Two.

Abe and others have argued that it should not be controversial for Japanese leaders to honor the country's fallen soldiers. He also points out that Tokyo has apologized for its past crimes.

But the issue has been further complicated by Japan's more recent territorial disputes with China and South Korea.

Tokyo-Beijing ties have plummeted because of a recent flare up in a dispute over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Prime Minister Abe has called for dialogue with China over the issue. But such efforts have not progressed.

South Korea and Japan are engaged in a dispute about a Seoul-controlled island group in the Sea of Japan.