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Naoto Kan, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, said Friday that Class-A war criminals enshrined at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to Japan’s war dead, should be enshrined at a different location.

Kan expressed his views on the issue in reference to the willingness voiced by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to visit the shrine in an official capacity.

Kan told a news conference that if it is difficult to enshrine the war criminals separately, then a new memorial should be created so that the government can pay homage in an official capacity.

“Either of these options would lead to a solution,” Kan said.

“To make an official visit to the shrine while Class-A war criminals are enshrined there (together with war dead) suggests approval of the war. The government should refrain from this (making official visits) at this point in time,” he said.

“It is important to make efforts so that the prime minister can pay homage at a justifiable place. If they (war criminals) can be enshrined separately, the government can pay homage at Yasukuni Shrine in a proper manner,” Kan said.

In the meantime, newly appointed Cabinet ministers have expressed caution over visits to Yasukuni, even though Koizumi has made it clear that he would like to make an official visit.

Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani said that he will take public sentiment and the views of Japan’s neighbors into consideration.

Nakatani, a former captain in the Ground Self-Defense Force, said that while he has visited the Tokyo shrine annually to express respect for those who perished fighting for the nation, he will make a decision cautiously in his official capacity.

Visits to the shrine by prime ministers and Cabinet ministers on the anniversary of the end of the war on Aug. 15 have been criticized by Japan’s Asian neighbors.

Yasukuni Shrine honors some 2.5 million Japanese who have died in wars since the mid-19th century. Seven hanged war criminals, among them Gen. Hideki Tojo, Japan’s prime minister during World War II, are also enshrined.

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