Citizens’ groups said Thursday they may sue Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for violating the Constitution if he visits Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.

About 30 members of various groups — including religious organizations, relatives of war dead and groups supporting war victims in Asia — visited the Cabinet Office to submit a petition urging Koizumi to cancel the visit, members said.

Some members told a Cabinet Office official they may file a suit against Koizumi if he goes ahead with his visit to the Shinto shrine. They argue it would violate Article 20 of the Constitution, which stipulates the separation of religion and state.

Koizumi’s official residence will be informed of the petition and their argument, the official told the group. The members had asked to meet with Koizumi but were refused.

Yasukuni Shrine honors about 2.5 million Japanese who have died in wars since the mid-19th century, including some Class A war criminals.

Although Koizumi has insisted his visit to the shrine is intended to pay respect to the war dead in the hope there will be no future victims of war, China and South Korea have voiced opposition to the visit, seeing it as an affirmation of Japan’s militarist past.

Meanwhile, Kazuyoshi Endo, senior vice minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, told a news conference he is against Koizumi’s visit to the shrine regardless of whether it is official or private.

“It is difficult to discuss drawing a line between the public and private affairs of the prime minister, who represents a country,” said Endo, who belongs to New Komeito, an ally of Koizumi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. “Moreover, it concerns Article 20 of the Constitution.”

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