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Japan's Koizumi to visit war shrine on Monday
Updated: 2005-10-17 09:00

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to make a controversial visit to the Yasukuni war shrine on Monday, a spokesman said.

Doves fly past the entrance to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which honours Japanese war dead including some infamous war criminals. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to make a controversial visit to the shrine on Monday, a spokesman said.[AFP/File]

"The prime minister is going to make a visit shortly after 10:00 am (0100 GMT)," Yu Kameoka, a Koizumi spokesman, told AFP.

Kameoka declined to comment on what kind of reaction Tokyo expected from Asian neighbors China and South Korea, which Japan occupied in the first half of the 20th century and see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's militarism.

Since taking office in 2001, Koizumi has kept his pledge to pray annually at Yasukuni, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 top convicted war criminals.

The Osaka High Court ruled on September 30 that his visits to Yasukuni were unconstitutional as they defied the separation of politics and religion.

Koizumi disagreed with the ruling, saying he was not making his pilgrimages as part of the prime minister's official duties but to express his personal grief over people killed in war.

The prime minister is riding high after scoring a runaway victory in the September general elections, which spawned calls for him to stay in power beyond the self-imposed limit of September 2006.

Koizumi has said there is no change in his plan to step down in September 2006 when his term as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expires.

But an opinion poll published by Jiji Press showed nearly 55 percent supported an extension of his term.

Jiji carried out the poll from October 7 to October 10, covering 2,000 eligible voters.

Japan's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said Friday he plans to visit China soon in an effort to improve relations, which have soured in part over Koizumi's Yasukuni visits.

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