Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has decided not to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo during its autumn festival from Sunday, sources close to him said Wednesday.
Like his two immediate predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga, Kishida is expected to make a ritual masakaki tree offering during the two-day festival. Kishida took office as prime minister last week.
In a policy debate for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Sept. 29 presidential election, Kishida said he would “consider whether to visit (the shrine after becoming prime minister), based on the timing and situation.”
The Shinto shrine is considered a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, particularly in China and South Korea, as it honors Class-A war criminals along with the war dead.
Kishida is believed to have decided to skip the visit out of diplomatic consideration for Japan’s neighbors.
In addition, Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, has a negative attitude toward visits to the shrine by prominent government members.
While a Yasukuni visit by Kishida would be well received by conservative lawmakers, it might have a negative impact on electoral cooperation between the two parties, with a general election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, drawing near.
Abe is the last person who visited the shrine while in office as Japanese prime minister. His visit took place in December 2013.
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