Business lobby presses Koizumi to forgo Yasukuni

by Hiroko Nakata

In a move indicative of how concerns have grown over the tension between Japan and China, a major business lobby on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to stop his annual visits to Yasukuni Shrine, saying they are the main obstacle to improving relations.

The written proposal on future Japan-China relations released by the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai) says Koizumi needs to reconsider his visits to Yasukuni, where convicted Class-A war criminals are honored as well as more than 2 million Japanese war dead. It also says the country needs to create a memorial that pays tribute to all victims.

“When we consider the (constitutional) separation of religion and politics, there seems to be no consensus among the Japanese people whether Yasukuni Shrine is an appropriate place to pledge that we will never again start a war,” the proposal says.

Koizumi has visited the Shinto shrine annually since taking office in April 2001, creating a constant source of friction with China and South Korea.

Koizumi rejected the business lobby’s suggestion.

“I know there are those who hold such views,” he told reporters when asked whether he sees the proposal as a message of concern among business leaders regarding bilateral ties.

“I’ve heard a lot of calls requesting that I not go (to Yasukuni) out of business considerations. But I have clearly told them that that issue is something different from politics,” Koizumi said.

Asked whether he is planning to visit Yasukuni on Aug. 15 — the anniversary of the end of World War II — this year, he only said: “I will make a decision (on the matter) appropriately.”

The Doyukai proposal says that in order to forge new relations with China, the country must urgently resume top-level talks that have long been suspended.

It says the prime minister’s Yasukuni visits are a major obstacle to an early restart of bilateral summits.