Despite growing tensions generated by his controversial visit last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday dismissed the idea of building a new memorial to replace war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, saying the Shinto facility is too well known as a venue for mourning.
“I don’t think it is appropriate for the state to build a new facility and say ‘Please do it here from now,’ ” Abe told a symposium in Tokyo. Yasukuni is “a main place for mourning,” he continued, saying that “such a feeling is shared by family members” of the war dead.
Abe repeated that his official visit to the shrine on Dec. 26, the first anniversary of his taking office, was to make a pledge “never to wage war again and to pray for those who gave their lives for the country.”
“A number of Japanese leaders have visited the shrine in the past and I have the same stance as them,” Abe told the gathering.
His December visit angered China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan’s wartime brutality and view the shrine as glorifying its past aggression because it honors Class-A war criminals along with war dead. In a rare criticism, the U.S. said it was “disappointed” by the visit.
Abe did not comment on the idea of enshrining the Class-A war criminals separately from Yasukuni, as “it is related to religious beliefs.”
Ahead of the shrine’s annual spring festival from Monday through Wednesday, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo visited Yasukuni last Saturday. Sources close to Abe have said he will probably refrain from visiting when Obama is here.