• Kyodo


Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday that he visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine two days before the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II because he was concerned about the possible adverse impact a visit on the anniversary would have on his structural reform drive.

Speaking to reporters at the Hakone hot spring resort, where he began a weeklong vacation the same day, Koizumi said he believed diplomatic problems caused by the visit would harm his chances of carrying out painful but necessary reforms of Japan’s struggling economy.

“The biggest role for my Cabinet is economic revitalization and structural reform,” Koizumi told reporters. “My decision was to create an environment that would allow me to put all my efforts toward them,” he said.

“I would have faced criticism no matter what I did.”

While campaigning for April’s presidential election for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and last month’s House of Councilors election, Koizumi promised he would make a visit to the Shinto shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of the war.

But he was forced to bring the schedule forward after coming under pressure at home and abroad.

The shrine is controversial because it honors Class A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead.

Seoul politicians’ fury

Five visiting members of South Korea’s National Assembly on Friday criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine as “anachronistic.”

The five lawmakers lashed out at Koizumi’s visit during a news conference at an office building for members of the House of Representatives in Tokyo.

“Forcing through the visit to the shrine honoring Class A war criminals despite protests from Asian nations is an anachronistic act and it is against the separation of politics and religion” stipulated by the Japanese Constitution, one of the lawmakers said.

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