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Friday, July 21, 2006
STILL 'A PERSONAL MATTER'
'Hirohito memo' won't affect shrine visits: Koizumi
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday that a reported memorandum saying the late Emperor Hirohito was upset about Yasukuni Shrine's decision to enshrine 14-Class A war criminals will not affect his contentious visits.
When asked if the reported note will affect his decision on whether to visit the shrine before he steps down in September, Koizumi replied: "No, it won't. (Whether to visit Yasukuni) is up to each person. It is a personal matter."
He refused to give a direct answer to repeated questions of whether he will go to Yasukuni one last time, answering with the same line: "It's a personal matter."
"It is OK if a person goes or doesn't go," Koizumi said.
Koizumi's annual visits to the Tokyo shrine, where the 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined as well as the war dead, since becoming prime minister have drawn strong criticism from China and South Korea, which suffered from Japanese occupation.
Koizumi has not yet visited the shrine this year, and there has been speculation that he might make one last trip as prime minister on Aug. 15 -- the anniversary of Japan's surrender.
Asked how he felt about the fact that neither Emperor Hirohito, now referred to as Emperor Showa, or his son, Emperor Akihito, have visited Yasukuni since it enshrined the war criminals in 1978, Koizumi said he could not comment on their decisions.
As for Diet members who say Yasukuni must separate the 14 war criminals from the nation's war dead, Koizumi said the government should not give orders to a religious group, although he welcomed discussion on the issue.
Meanwhile, senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers renewed their calls for separating the Class-A war criminals.
The chairman of the LDP's decision-making General Council, Fumio Kyuma, said in his opinion Yasukuni Shrine should not have enshrined the Class-A war criminals with the more than 2 million war dead.
Ex-LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki said he has advocated a memorial for the war dead that the Emperor can visit.
"I think (the reported memorandum) will definitely have an impact on the ongoing argument on whether to build a secular state memorial for the war dead," said Yamasaki, who heads an interparty group of more than 100 Diet members who want such a memorial.
Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, said the late Emperor's will should be respected now that the memorandum has surfaced.
Hatoyama said he wanted "Prime Minister Koizumi to gravely accept the fact."
The memorandum, reportedly written by the late Tomohiko Tomita when he was the Imperial Household Agency grand steward, "is significant hard evidence backing the long-standing belief" that Emperor Hirohito became angry when he learned of the shrine's decision to enshrine the 14 Class-A war criminals, Hatoyama said.
Former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato, who was at one time a close political ally of Koizumi along with Yamasaki, said he believed the memorandum will have a major impact on the calls to separate out the war criminals from the shrine.
Information from Kyodo added