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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday took his last opportunity while in office to visit Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s wartime surrender, finally following through on a campaign pledge he made before his April 2001 inauguration to break the diplomatic taboo by making the contentious trip.

By ignoring criticism both at home and abroad, Koizumi probably wanted to defend his “stubborn maverick” image — a key component of his popularity — and pay no heed to the impact his visit to the war-related shrine has on Japan’s ties with China and South Korea, observers said.

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