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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa visited Yasukuni Shrine on Sunday, the first Cabinet member to go to the shrine near the 60th anniversary Monday of the end of World War II.

Prior to Nakagawa, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto paid a visit to the Shinto shrine in Tokyo , which commemorates convicted war criminals alongside Japan’s war dead and is the centerpiece of strained relations between Japan and some other Asian countries that suffered under its wartime aggression.

“I thought I was going to visit on Monday, but I decided to visit today because I have a Cabinet meeting Monday,” Nakagawa said.

The head of METI said he used his own money to pay for the offering of a branch of the sacred tree to the gods.

Nakagawa also suggested he paid the visit in his capacity as a government official, not an individual citizen. “I’m a Cabinet minister,” he said when asked by reporters about the character of the visit.

Among the other 18 members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet, Environment Minister Yuriko Koike and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hidehisa Otsuji have made their intentions public to visit Yasukuni on Monday.

Meanwhile 12 of them, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, have said they have no plans for a visit.

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