Marking on Sunday the 59th anniversary of the end of World War II, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reiterated Japan’s pledge not to repeat the tragedies of war.
He was speaking at an annual national ceremony in Tokyo attended by 6,142 people, including roughly 4,900 relatives of people who died in the war.
Koizumi’s words, however, are unlikely to put an end to the decades-long controversies over Japan’s invasion of its Asian neighbors.
Also Sunday, four members of Koizumi’s Cabinet and 58 other Diet members went to Yasukuni Shrine, which served as a spiritual pillar of Japan’s wartime militarism.
Koizumi drew strong protests from China and South Korea when he visited the shrine Jan. 1, following three previous visits since he became prime minister in 2001.
Koizumi did not visit the shrine Sunday, but he has pledged to go there again next year without specifying the date.
During the ceremony at Nippon Budokan hall, which was also attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, participants observed one minute of silence at noon to express condolences for Japanese military personnel and civilians killed in the war.
In his address, Koizumi first prayed for the souls of “more than 3 million” Japanese who died during and soon after the end of World War II, and then turned to the subject of war victims in other Asian countries.
“In the previous war, our country caused great damage and agony to people in many countries, in particular those of Asia,” Koizumi said. “Representing the nation, I’d like to offer condolences to victims (in other Asian countries).”
The four Cabinet ministers who visited Yasukuni Shrine were trade minister Shoichi Nakagawa, farm minister Yoshiyuki Kamei, Kiyoko Ono, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, and Yuriko Koike, environment minister.
The 58 Diet members belong to an association of lawmakers promoting group visits by Diet members to Yasukuni.
Among the 58 were Makoto Koga, chairman of Japan War Bereaved Families Association, Mitsuo Horiuchi, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Executive Council, and Toranosuke Katayama, secretary general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus.
Yasukuni Shrine, whose precursor was established in 1869, honors 2.47 million Japanese war dead who the shrine says died for the sake of the state, along with 14 leaders convicted after World War II as Class-A war criminals by the Tokyo War Tribunal.
Emperor shrine visit?
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara suggested Sunday that Emperor Akihito should visit Yasukuni Shrine next year on the 60th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II to “fulfill the great responsibility to the country.”
“If the Emperor visits Yasukuni (next year) on the 60th year since Japan’s defeat in the war, I believe he can fulfill the great responsibility to the nation that only the Emperor can fulfill,” Ishihara, a prominent nationalist, said after visiting the Shinto shrine Sunday.