The No. 2 leader of the Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday said the agreement of the LDP and its two coalition partners is required before new Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi can visit Yasukuni Shrine, which honors about 2.5 million Japanese who have died in wars since the mid-19th century.

Speaking on a current affairs program on Fuji TV, Taku Yamasaki, the party’s secretary general, said Koizumi’s hope to visit the shrine as prime minister “will require the agreement of the three parties because we have a three-party coalition government. I think it is difficult for an LDP president to take an independent action.”

Koizumi was elected LDP president last week. The New Conservative Party and New Komeito are the LDP’s junior partners in the coalition.

On the same TV program, Takenori Kanzaki, leader of New Komeito, which opposes Koizumi’s plans to visit the shrine, said, “The issue touches on Articles 20 and 89 of the Constitution. We also have to consider reactions of neighboring countries.”

Article 20 guarantees freedom of religion, while Article 89 states public funds or assets should not be spent on religious organizations. Formal visits to Yasukuni Shrine involve monetary donations in exchange for sacred boughs presented to the shrine.

New Komeito Secretary General Tetsuzo Fuyushiba said in a meeting in Kagoshima the same day that an official visit to the shrine by the prime minister “could violate the principle of the separation of religion and politics stipulated in the Constitution.”

At a press conference on Friday after assuming the prime ministership, Koizumi said that he is willing to make an official visit to the shrine, which also honors seven top Japanese leaders who were executed as war criminals by the Allied powers after World War II.

Visits by prime ministers and Cabinet ministers on the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of the war are routinely criticized by the Asian countries invaded by Japanese troops, and Koizumi’s position on the issue has already drawn fire from some of them.

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