The following is the Foreign Press Center translation of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s statement on his visit to Yasukuni Shrine:

The day after tomorrow, Aug. 15, is the 56th anniversary of the end of the war. Looking back to the last war at the very beginning of the 21st century, solemn feelings fill my heart. During the war, Japan caused tremendous sufferings to many people of the world, including its own people. Following a mistaken national policy during a certain period in the past, Japan imposed, through its colonial rule and aggression, immeasurable ravages and suffering particularly to the people of neighboring countries in Asia. This has left a still-incurable scar to many people in the region.

Sincerely facing these deeply regrettable historical facts as they are, here I offer my feelings of profound remorse and sincere mourning to all the victims of the war.

I believe that Japan must never again proceed down a path to war. Every year, before the souls of those who lost their lives on the battlefield while believing in the future of Japan in those difficult days, I have recalled that the present peace and prosperity of Japan are founded on the ultimate sacrifices they made, and renewed my vow for peace. I had thought that people of Japan and those of the neighboring countries would understand my belief if it was fully explained, and thus, after my assumption of office as prime minister, I expressed my wish to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15.

However, as the anniversary of the end of the war came closer, vocal debates started at home and abroad as to whether I should visit Yasukuni Shrine. In the course of these debates, opinions requesting the cancellation of my visit to Yasukuni Shrine were voiced not only within Japan but also from other countries. It would be totally contrary to my wish, under these circumstances, if my visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15 could, against my intention, lead people of neighboring countries to cast doubts on the fundamental policy of Japan of denying war and desiring peace. Taking seriously such situations both in and outside Japan, I have made my own decision not to visit Yasukuni Shrine on that day, and I would like to choose another day for a visit.

As prime minister, I deeply regret withdrawing what I have once said. However, even if I have my own views on a visit to Yasukuni Shrine, I am now in a position to devote myself to my duty as prime minister, and to deal with various challenges, taking broad national interests into consideration.

If circumstances permit, I would like to have opportunities as soon as possible to have face-to-face meetings with leaders of China and the Republic of Korea in order to exchange views on the peace and development of the Asia-Pacific region of the future and to talk about my belief mentioned above.

Furthermore, as an issue for the future, I think that we need to discuss what could be done in order for people at home and abroad to pay memorial tribute without discomfort, while respecting the feelings of the Japanese people toward Yasukuni Shrine and Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery.

I do sincerely ask the people of Japan to understand my genuine feelings.

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