Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday sent an offering to a controversial shrine to Japan's war dead seen in China and the two Koreas as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, a move likely to spark protest, Kyodo news agency reported.
The offering at the Yasukuni Shrine spring festival came as Japan seeks greater cooperation with China and South Korea in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.
The premier is unlikely to visit the shrine during the festival, Kyodo said.
Visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni Shrine in downtown Tokyo have outraged Asian neighbours since the shrine honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with the other war dead.
Abe has visited the shrine in person only once, in December 2013, since becoming premier the previous year. Eager to improve ties with China and South Korea, strained by territorial and other disputes, he has instead opted to send ritual offerings on several occasions.