Keiji Furuya, state minister for the North Korea abductee issue, may visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday to mark the 68th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, a government official said Saturday.
In addition to Furuya, who also chairs the National Public Safety Commission, at least two other members of right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet could visit the controversial Shinto shrine for the occasion.
China and South Korea view Yasukuni, which enshrines 14 convicted or accused Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead, as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. The two countries have been enraged by previous visits to the shrine by prime ministers and Diet lawmakers.
According to the official, Furuya will reach a final conclusion after consulting with the Prime Minister’s Office. He was ambiguous at a news conference Thursday, saying only that he would make a “timely and appropriate decision” on whether to go to Yasukuni.
Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo and administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada are the other two Cabinet members considering a trip to the shrine.
Last week, Abe told a news conference, “Whether Cabinet ministers visit Yasukuni in their private capacity is an issue based on their (personal) beliefs. So they are free (to visit it).”
But Abe declined to say whether he will go the shrine for this week’s anniversary. Speculation is rife that he is likely to stay away to avoid further fueling tensions with neighboring countries — especially China and South Korea.
The prime minister did not visit the shrine for its annual spring festival in April and only sent a “masakaki” tree decoration traditionally used in Shinto rituals, with his name written below his official title. Even that offering sparked criticism from Beijing and Seoul.
Furuya, Shindo and Inada, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, all visited Yasukuni during the spring festival. Aso has said he will not be making a trip to the shrine for Thursday’s anniversary.