Fukuda to skip Yasukuni

But new justice minister to visit contentious shrine on surrender day

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda indicated Tuesday he has no plans to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

But one of the 17 members of his new Cabinet, Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka, has clearly said he will go.

“Look at my behavior in the past,” Fukuda, who took office last September, said when asked whether he will visit the shrine, which China and South Korea see as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

The moderate Fukuda, known for promoting relations with China and other Asian nations, has remained reluctant to visit the contentious shrine.

Of the Cabinet, only Yasuoka so far has said he will visit the shrine Aug. 15.

“I have decided to visit (Yasukuni) to mourn for those who lost their precious lives during the war and pray for permanent peace,” he said.

Eleven other ministers said they will not go, while four — health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, farm minister Seiichi Ota, transport minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, and Seiko Noda, the minister in charge of consumer affairs — were unclear.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura is abroad but is considered unlikely to visit the shrine.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said he did not visit the shrine while he was foreign minister and does not intend to next week.

“It’s up to the individual what kind of shrine one visits, but it is also necessary to behave by giving consideration to various things from the position of chief Cabinet secretary as a public figure,” Machimura said.

Fukuda’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, refused to make clear whether he visited Yasukuni. On the surrender anniversary last year, when he was still prime minister, Sanae Takaichi, state minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories issues, was the only Cabinet minister who visited the shrine.

China and South Korea have protested visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni, which honors Japanese Class-A war criminals as well as the war dead.

Junichiro Koizumi, who served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, caused much anger around Asia with his repeated visits to the shrine.