China reacted relatively calmly Thursday to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's latest ritual offering to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo for its annual autumn festival.
Both the official Xinhua News Agency and state-owned China Central Television treated matter-of-factly Abe's offering as prime minister of a "masakaki" tree traditionally used in Shinto rituals to the shrine that is seen by Japan's Asian neighbors as a symbol of its past militarism.
The reporting was markedly different than on Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, when although Abe refrained from visiting the shrine in person he made a monetary offering in his position as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stopped short of directly commenting on either Abe's latest offering or his decision not to visit the shrine that honors Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal along with millions of war dead.
Hua, at a regular press conference, reiterated China's frequent comments on Japan, saying she wants "the Japanese side to face squarely to and honestly reflect its history of aggression, respect the feelings of the people of China and other Asian victimized countries, and properly handle relevant issues."
Past visits to the Shinto shrine by Japanese political leaders have outraged countries that were victims of Japanese aggression, especially China and South Korea.
Abe's decision not to visit the shrine comes as officials from both Tokyo and Beijing are trying to find ways to mend relations strained by territorial and historical issues.
On Wednesday, Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga acknowledged that a senior Chinese diplomat made a secret visit to Japan earlier this month for informal talks aimed at improving relations between the two countries.