TOKYO - Rookie lawmakers from Japan's ruling party visited a controversial war shrine on Friday and urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to pay homage there on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War Two.
The visit by Japanese lawmakers to Yasukuni shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism, came at a time when Japan remains locked in disputes with China and South Korea over issues stemming mainly from Tokyo's wartime atrocities.
Lawmakers from Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party visit Yasukini Shrine in Tokyo April 28, 2006. The rookie lawmakers urged on Friday Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to pay homage at the controversial war shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War Two. [Reuters]
The 21 lawmakers who visited Yasukuni on Friday were all from the group of 83 ruling Liberal Democratic Party legislators, dubbed "Koizumi's children" by the media, who won seats in the September 11 general election for the powerful lower house.
"I appreciate (Koizumi's) annual visits amid criticism. I want him to visit on August 15," Kyodo news agency quoted LDP lawmaker Tomomi Inada as telling reporters after visiting Yasukuni.
Although Koizumi has visited the Tokyo war shrine each year since taking office five years ago, he has avoided paying homage at the shrine on August 15.
Japan's ties with China and South Korea have been frayed by Koizumi's visits to the shrine, where some convicted war criminals are honoured along with Japan's 2.5 million war dead.
Koizumi last went to Yasukuni in October, triggering protests from China and South Korea.