Aide: Abe may visit Yasukuni this year

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will probably visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine by year’s end, an aide in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Sunday.

“The prime minister has repeated that there is no change in his feeling about the shrine,” said Koichi Hagiuda, a House of Representatives member who is serving as special aide to Abe in the latter’s role as LDP chief.

Hagiuda told reporters he thinks Abe will visit the shrine within one year from the launch of his current government late last year.

“Some people say he should visit the shrine sometime while he is prime minister, but a visit to the shrine should be made at least once a year,” he said.

Also Sunday, Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and state minister in charge of dealing with North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals, paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine.

“It is only natural for a Japanese” to pay homage at the shrine, Furuya told reporters after his visit. “It is not intended to provoke neighboring countries,” he said.

Furuya also visited the shrine during its spring festival in April and on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo visited the shrine Friday.

Abe himself offered a “masakaki” tree, traditionally used in Shinto rituals, to the shrine Thursday but did not make a visit in person in an apparent bid to not further aggravate ties with Beijing and Seoul.

But Abe told reporters Saturday, “I said in the past that it was extremely regrettable I could not visit the shrine during my previous stint (as prime minister), and I still have the same feeling.”

Also Saturday, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, went to Yasukuni.