House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono indirectly urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday to stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine, Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers said.

The former LDP president and foreign minister, making a request on behalf of former prime ministers, was quoted as telling Koizumi he “should decide (whether to visit the shrine) with utmost caution.”

In response, Koizumi reportedly said: “I have repeatedly explained to Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun about my thoughts on the Yasukuni issue, and I believe they understand me.”

Kono and Koizumi were meeting to discuss Japan’s deteriorating relations with China, which has directly criticized Koizumi’s contentious visits to the Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan’s war dead, as well as Class-A war criminals.

At the meeting with Koizumi, also attended by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, Kono made a request on behalf of several other former prime ministers who convened for a special meeting he organized June 1 to discuss the shrine visits and their impact on ties with China and South Korea.

The former prime ministers included Mori, Kiichi Miyazawa, Tomiichi Murayama and Ryutaro Hashimoto.

It is unusual for the leader of one of the Diet houses to make a request to the prime minister on a diplomatic issue.

According to Kono, the former prime ministers agree Koizumi should use extreme caution in deciding on visiting Yasukuni.

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