Koizumi hints at shrine visit plan, again
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi again indicated Thursday he will visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine later this year despite strong protests from Asian countries.
According to Kyodo News, Koizumi told a House of Representatives Budget Committee session that he would decide " appropriately" when to go to the shrine.
When main opposition Democratic Party of Japan President Katsuya Okada tried to clarify whether Koizumi meant to continue his visits, the premier said,"The words can be taken as they are."
Koizumi conceded that he knows the Yasukuni Shrine authorities claim Japan's engagement in World War II to "free" Asia was legitimate, but said his visits are unrelated to that view, Kyodo News said.
"I don't want my visits to Yasukuni Shrine to be taken as meaning I support the shrine's view," he said, as Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii argued that a prime minister's visit to the shrine is tantamount to legitimizing the shrine's view.
Koizumi reiterated that his visits are aimed at paying tribute to Japan's war dead and pledging that the country will not wage war again, and demanded he be allowed freedom of thought in paying such visits even if he is the prime minister.
Koizumi has adamantly defended his Yasukuni visits despite calls from within the ruling parties to stop them.
On Wednesday, he dismissed a coordinated call by five former prime ministers and House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono that he be more cautious about the visits, as well as a similar warning from New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki, whose party forms the ruling coalition with Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Koizumi has visited the shrine in Tokyo once every year since taking office in April 2001, and indicated May 16 he would visit again sometime this year. The last time he paid a visit was New Year's Day last year.
China and other Asian countries have strongly protested at the Japanese leader's visits to the notorious shrine that honors 14 Class-A World War II criminals responsible for the most atrocious crimes in Japan's aggression war against Asian neighbors.