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Tuesday, July 4, 2006

POW gesture backfires on hardliner Aso


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Foreign Minister Taro Aso paid a controversial visit Monday to an Osaka temple where the remains of Allied prisoners of war were once interred.

After the end of World War II, the remains of more than 1,000 POWs from eight nations, including the United States, Britain, Holland, Canada, Italy, Norway, India and Australia, were briefly interred at Juganji Temple.

Aso's decision to pay respects at the temple was one of international controversy and diplomatic confusion.

Initially, he had hoped to visit in his official capacity, and ambassadors and representatives from the eight nations were sent official invitations. But the invitations only generated controversy.

For one, Aso's move was seen by many in the foreign diplomatic corps and foreign media as a move to soften his image as a hardline nationalist before the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election in September.

Many people, especially overseas, saw a contradiction in Aso's willingness to pay respects because of his refusal to discuss his family's involvement in bringing POWs, as well as slave laborers from Korea, to work in its coal mine in Fukuoka Prefecture.



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The Japan Times

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