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Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006
Avoid Yasukuni legacy: former aide
By MASAMI ITO
A visit by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to contentious Yasukuni Shrine on surrender day Aug. 15 will taint his Cabinet, so he should reconsider any plans for making the trip, former Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Taku Yamasaki said Monday.
"I cannot approve (of Koizumi's) visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15," Yamasaki, a former top aide to Koizumi, said at a news conference. "I realize Koizumi wants to visit Yasukuni on the 15th, to follow through with his public commitment, but he should not take such a visit lightly, as there will be repercussions if he goes."
Yamasaki declined to say if he will run in the Sept. 20 LDP presidential race, whose winner is effectively assured the post of prime minister.
"I haven't made up my mind whether to run," he said.
As the leader of a nonpartisan group advocating construction of a new national memorial for the war dead, Yamasaki pointed out that Yasukuni Shrine is a domestic and diplomatic issue for various reasons because it honors Class-A war criminals as well as the war dead.
Establishment of a secular national memorial to mourn the war dead would help resolve many of the negative issues pertaining to the Shinto shrine, Yamasaki said.
The nonpartisan group hopes the envisioned memorial honors others not enshrined at Yasukuni, including victims of war, Yamasaki said.
"(The group) has not discussed nor come to a conclusion about whether to include the Class-A war criminals. But personally, I don't believe they should be included," he said.
As the LDP presidential election approaches, various party members have expressed opinions on or proposed solutions to the Yasukuni issue.
Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who has officially announced his candidacy, has said he will refrain from visiting the shrine if elected.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso has proposed that Yasukuni Shrine surrender its religious status. On the other hand, it was recently uncovered that Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the apparent front-runner, secretly visited Yasukuni in April.