It is natural for the nation’s leaders to want to visit Yasukuni Shrine to pay their respects to those who died for the country, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday.
At a House of Representatives plenary meeting, Abe stressed the importance of leaders “expressing their respect to and praying for those who sacrificed their lives fighting for the country.”
He made the remarks in connection with his last visit to the shrine in December 2013. Yasukuni is a shrine for Japan’s war dead, including a number of convicted war criminals.
Abe did not say whether he would visit the shrine again as prime minister. His 2013 visit aggravated already tense relations with China and South Korea.
But Abe said he believes Cabinet members should decide for themselves whether to go or not.
Abe also spoke about the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution in July last year to allow Japan to engage in collective self-defense.
The war-renouncing Article 9 of the national charter allows only the minimum required to protect the lives and happiness of the Japanese people, Abe said.
There is no change to the nation’s exclusive focus on defense, he added.