Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi indicated Friday he does not plan to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on or around Aug. 15, the date of Japan’s World War II surrender.
But two members of his Cabinet said the same day they will pay a visit to the shrine on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“There is no change,” Koizumi told reporters at his office when asked if his position has changed from 2002. That position was issued after his April 21, 2002, shrine visit, to address the criticism from China and South Korea — which see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past — after his first visit as prime minister on Aug. 13, 2001.
“It would be against my intention to make to a visit on or around the end-of-war anniversary and cause concerns and wariness again (like that caused by the Aug. 13, 2001, visit) inside and outside Japan,” read his statement posted on the Web site of Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
Koizumi, however, has pledged to visit the contentious Shinto shrine once a year. Yasukuni honors the nation’s war dead, as well as 14 Class-A War Criminals.
Visiting on Aug. 15 would have huge diplomatic repercussions, because of the symbolic impression it would make. China and South Korea have repeatedly and strongly urged Koizumi to stop visiting the shrine.
A visit would pose great risks domestically as well, because of the Sept. 11 Lower House election.
According to a July 16-17 poll by the major daily Mainichi Shimbun, 51 percent of the people oppose Koizumi’s shrine visits, while 39 percent support them.
The same poll showed that among those who support the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, 62 percent back the shrine visits, which indicates Koizumi might gain more votes for his party in the upcoming election by visiting.
But Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the LDP, which Koizumi heads, said on a television program Thursday that he believes Koizumi won’t visit Yasukuni out of consideration of the election and New Komeito, which has repeatedly urged him to stay away.
Environment Minister Yuriko Koike and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hidehisa Otsuji, however, said they would go to the shrine Monday. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoicho Nakagawa hinted he may also visit, while two other ministers were noncommittal.
Last year, four ministers visited the shrine on Aug. 15.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and 10 other ministers said they have no plans to visit Monday.
Koizumi has visited the shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead, once every year since taking office in April 2001. His last visit was New Year’s Day 2004.
During his campaign for Liberal Democratic Party president, Koizumi pledged to visit the shrine on Aug. 15 if elected, but has yet to fulfill his promise.
Koike claimed she will go to the shrine as a private citizen to pray for peace in Japan and the rest of world, while Otsuji said his trip will be just like visiting his father’s grave as his name is listed at Yasukuni.
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