Time to discuss shrine’s fate: LDP’s Katayama

The nation needs to get serious about discussing the future of Yasukuni Shrine, with every option on the table including the removal of Class-A war criminals, a senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker said Sunday.

The comments by Toranosuke Katayama, secretary general of the governing party’s Upper House caucus, came after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the Shinto shrine on Tuesday, the 61st anniversary of the end of World War II, triggering yet another outcry from neighboring countries Japan invaded and occupied before and during the war.

“We should discuss the shape of Yasukuni Shrine and its legal status, including the possibility of removing Class-A war criminals” honored at the shrine along with the war dead, Katayama said on an NHK TV program.

He suggested Koizumi’s latest pilgrimage came as no surprise as he had pledged to make such a visit when he became head of the governing party and prime minister five years ago.

Koizumi “acted in a sensible manner as a lawmaker,” Katayama said.

On the same TV program, main opposition Democratic Party of Japan Acting President Naoto Kan criticized Koizumi, saying the prime minister “ignored” national interests and placed “priority on his personal sentiment.”

Junji Higashi, Diet Affairs Committee chairman of New Komeito, said: “It’s time for Japan to overcome the Yasukuni problem and build a secular national facility to commemorate the war dead.”

New Komeito is the LDP’s coalition partner.

Higashi suggested the issue should be on the agenda in the upcoming LDP presidential election next month, after Koizumi leaves office.