The Japan War-Bereaved Families Association, the most powerful lobby for relatives of Japan’s war dead, will forgo discussion of politically sensitive issues related to Yasukuni Shrine until after the Sept. 20 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, an executive of the group said Wednesday.
Those issues will include whether the association should ask Yasukuni to stop enshrining Class-A war criminals, including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.
The association is the largest group of relatives of Japan’s war dead and the main backer of Yasukuni. Any decision it makes will likely have a major impact on the shrine.
“Controversial issues will be discussed only after the LDP presidential election, because otherwise we will get caught up in politics,” Tsuguo Morita, vice chairman of the association, said in a Wednesday telephone interview with The Japan Times.
Five top executives of the association met that same day to discuss key issues related to Yasukuni ahead of the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.
The association chairman, Lower House member Makoto Koga, has proposed that war criminals be enshrined somewhere other than Yasukuni to end diplomatic and domestic outcries over visits to the shrine by government ministers.
But the five executives, including Koga, agreed Wednesday that such issues should not be discussed until after the LDP election, Morita said.
“Today we didn’t discuss the separation of the enshrinement” of Class-A war criminals, he said.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s annual visits to the shrine are a major source of diplomatic tension with China and South Korea, particularly because it honors Class-A war criminals who were hanged or died in prison following the postwar Tokyo tribunal.
Whether Koizumi, current LDP president, and candidates seeking to succeed him visit the shrine on Aug. 15 has been the focus of recent attention, and the Yasukuni issue is a major policy topic among those looking to run.
The LDP presidency effectively entails the prime ministership, given the party’s dominance in the Diet.
Yasukuni officials have long argued that, according to Shinto teaching, it is impossible to separate out the souls of individuals once they are enshrined at the main altar.
Shrine the problem: poll
Half of the Chinese polled in a joint Japanese-Chinese survey said they would not approve of Japanese politicians visiting Yasukuni Shrine even if the names of the Class-A war criminals were removed.
While 30.4 percent of the Chinese respondents said they would be OK with Japanese politicians visiting the Shinto shrine if the 14 Class-A war criminals were no longer enshrined there, 51.1 percent responded they would not approve of the visits under any condition, according to the survey released Wednesday.
A group of several organizations, including the Japanese nonprofit group Genron NPO, and Peking University, surveyed about 1,000 Japanese and 1,600 Chinese in urban areas in May and June.
According to the group, 62.7 percent of the Chinese and 55.5 percent of the Japanese agreed that bilateral relations have deteriorated during the five years Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been in power.
When the Japanese were asked which country posed a military threat, 72.4 percent of the respondents said North Korea and 42.8 percent named China.