Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso has sent an offering to a Tokyo war shrine seen by Asian neighbours as a symbol of the country's past militarism, an official at the shrine said on Tuesday.
The premier, who took office in September, has since then avoided visiting the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 top war criminals from World War II.
But, like former premier Shinzo Abe, Aso offered a potted sakaki plant, an evergreen also known as Cleyera japonica, to the shinto shrine to mark the start of Japan's three-day spring festival today, a shrine official told AFP.
Aso -- who is scheduled to visit China next week -- made the offering in his role as prime minister but reportedly paid for the plant with his own money, just like he did several months ago, the official said.
"He gave a sakaki to the shrine for this festival, and he also did so in autumn last year," said the shrine spokesman, who asked not to be named.
The plant cost 50,000 yen or about $500, he said.
Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi enraged China and South Korea by praying once a year at the shrine during his 2001-2006 tenure.
Abe chose to stay away from the shrine, while Aso's predecessor Yasuo Fukuda advocated reconciliation with other Asian countries and openly opposed visits to the shrine by political leaders.