Following recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday declined to say if he will visit Yasukuni Shrine this year.

He claimed his contentious annual visits to the Shinto shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead as well as enshrines Class-A war criminals, have little to do with the demonstrations.

“Those are (two) separate issues,” Koizumi told reporters Monday evening.

He also said he doesn’t believe his visits to the shrine could be a main reason for the recent anti-Japanese sentiment, although each of his visits have been denounced by Beijing.

“There is a long history for developing (the latest anti-Japanese sentiment),” said Koizumi without elaborating.

Since taking office in April 2001, Koizumi has visited the shrine in Tokyo every year in accordance with his pledge to do so when running for the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidency.

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