Prime Minister Naoto Kan and all of his ministers have expressed their intention not to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Sunday, the anniversary of the end of World War II, out of consideration for Asian victims of Japanese militarism.
Kan announced in June that he wouldn’t visit the Shinto shrine honoring Japan’s war dead along with war criminals as long as he is in office. Past Yasukuni visits by prime ministers triggered fierce criticism, most notably from China and South Korea.
“I clearly stated my position” on the issue after assuming office, Kan said at a news conference. “I believe my position will win (people’s) understanding.”
This will be the first anniversary of the end of the war since Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan came to power. Under Liberal Democratic Party-led governments, one or more Cabinet members visited the shrine every year.
When Junichiro Koizumi was LDP prime minister earlier in the decade, he made a point of visiting the shrine yearly, sparking outrage each time.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said Tuesday all of Kan’s ministers will “refrain voluntarily” from making official visits to the Tokyo shrine as part of administration policy.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said the prime minister and Cabinet members shouldn’t make official visits to Yasukuni out of consideration for “the sentiments of our neighboring countries.”
Financial services minister Shozaburo Jimi, from the DPJ’s relatively conservative coalition partner Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), also said he has no plans to visit the shrine.
Transport minister Seiji Maehara emphasized that Yasukuni enshrines Class-A war criminals.
“I won’t make a visit as long as I am in this post,” he said, calling for more discussion on whether to stop enshrining the war dead and war criminals at the same site.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma said the administration should study a proposal once pursued by the LDP for building a national, secular and permanent memorial facility.