Japan has confirmed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a personal message to a ceremony honoring hundreds of World War Two-era Japanese war criminals.
The Asahi newspaper reported Wednesday that Prime Minister Abe sent the note to the April ceremony held at Koyasan Okunoin temple in western Japan.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Mr. Abe's note was sent in his capacity as head of Japan's ruling party, and not as prime minister.
Asahi reported that in the note, Mr. Abe expressed grief for the death of the war criminals, who he said "sacrificed their souls to become the foundation of the country."
Organizers have confirmed the note was read at the ceremony, which was attended by former Japanese military officers.
The names of at least 1,180 convicted and suspected war criminals are inscribed on an empty tomb at the Buddhist temple.
There has been no comment from China or South Korea, who regularly protest moves by Japanese officials to honor Japan's war dead.