Sunday, October 16, 2005
Koizumi visits Yasukuni
TOKYO, Oct. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Monday the Yasukuni shrine which honors Japan's World War II war criminals.
The visit was the fifth since he took office in 2001.
The shrine enshrines 14 Class-A war criminals as well as about 2 million Japanese war dead.
The premier's previous visits have resulted in strong criticism from Japan's neighboring countries, especially China and South Korea, making the issue the major stumbling block for developing smoothly relations with the two countries.
The Osaka High Court ruled on Sept. 30 that the visits were in his official capacity and had violated the constitutional article of the separation of state and religion. In addition, a district court in the Fukuoka prefecture has also made the same judgment.
Japanese PM Visits Tokyo War Shrine
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Writer
TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi prayed at a Tokyo shrine honoring the country's war dead Monday, defying critics who say the visits glorify militarism and risking a further deterioration in relations with China and South Korea. The visit was Koizumi's fifth to the Yasukuni Shrine since becoming prime minister in April 2001, and came despite a recent court decision that found the visits violate Japan's constitutional division of religion and the state. Koizumi suggests the visits are personal, but as in past occasions, he arrived in an official car, accompanied by his aides.
Koizumi last went to Yasukuni in January 2004, triggering protests by Beijing and Seoul and compounding tensions between Tokyo and its neighbors. Those tensions peaked in April with anti-Japanese riots in several Chinese cities.
The international implications of the visit were immediately apparent. South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon summoned Japanese Ambassador Shotaro Oshima to protest shortly after the visit. Kyodo News agency reported that the Japanese Embassy in Beijing had issued a warning urging Japanese citizens to be cautious.
Japan's 2.5 million war dead are worshipped as deities at Yasukuni, a shrine in Japan's native Shinto religion. They include executed war criminals from World War II, such as wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. The shrine also runs a museum that justifies Japan's wartime aggression.
The visits are popular among conservatives and the families of soldiers who died in World War II.
"If my children were dead and enshrined here, I would want him to make a visit," Kyoko Matsuura, a woman in her 40s who was in a crowd at the shrine. "I think he comes here with a commitment not to repeat a war."
Public opinion, however, is split over the visits. Nippon Television conducted a poll over the weekend showing that 47.6 percent of respondents supported the visits, while 45.5 percent were opposed. NTV surveyed 479 people from Friday to Sunday, and provided no margin of error.
Several other rulings have avoided ruling on the constitutionality of the visits.
The visits have enraged Japanese neighbors and deteriorated relations with South Korea and China, which bore the brunt of Tokyo's aggressive conquest of East Asia in the first half of the 20th century. They are also disputed over Japanese history textbooks, ownership of uninhabited islets as well as rights to undersea resources.
Hiroyuki Hosoda, the chief government spokesman, said the prime minister did not visit the shrine in his official capacity on Monday, and indicated that he expected protests from neighboring nations.
"There may be various diplomatic actions may develop later on but I cannot predict what exactly may happen," Hosoda said.
Japanese PM makes another controversial war shrine visit
TOKYO, (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made another controversial visit to the Yasukuni war shrine, risking damage to already strained relations with Asian neighbors who say it glorifies Japan's past militarism.
Koizumi, dressed in a gray suit and light-blue tie, bowed deeply for about 30 seconds in front of the shrine as a general worshipper would, without entering the main hall as on past visits.
The pilgrimage lasted only a few minutes before Koizumi was whisked away in his motorcade, without speaking to the media gathered outside the shrine in the rain, along with a handful of supporters and protesters.
The visit to the Tokyo shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including some infamous war criminals, defies a ruling last month by a Japanese high court that the pilgrimages violated the constitution.
The move is almost certain to anger Japan's Asian neighbors China and South Korea, which Japan occupied in the first half of the 20th century and which see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's wartime atrocities.
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 but Koizumi snubbed 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 latest visit comes as Koizumi enjoys a groundswell of public support at home following his landslide election victory last month.
Koizumi visits war shrine, China and S.Korea protest
By Linda Sieg and George Nishiyama
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid homage on Monday at a Tokyo shrine for war dead that is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past, drawing swift and angry protests from China and South Korea.
Japan's relations with its neighbors have already chilled because of Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals convicted by an Allied tribunal are honored along with the nation's 2.5 million war dead.
Koizumi -- clad in a dark suit rather than the traditional Japanese garb he has worn on some past visits -- bowed, put his hands together in prayer and stood silently in front of an outer shrine for a moment before striding back to his car in front of a crowd that had gathered in a drizzling rain.
He did not enter an inner shrine as he has in the past and made no remarks. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters the visit was made in a private capacity.
Japanese media said the low key atmosphere appeared to be an attempt to mute the expected backlash from China and South Korea as well as domestic critics.
Chinese ambassador to Japan Wang Yi, however, called the visit a "grave provocation to the Chinese people."
"The Chinese government is resolutely opposed to visits to the Yasukuni shrine by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at any time, in any form," Xinhua news agency quoted Wang as saying.
Japan's embassy in Beijing advised Japanese nationals to stay away from areas that could be potential flash points for anti-Japan demonstrations, such as those in April.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon summoned Japanese ambassador Shotaro Oshima to complain. "We strongly protest the visit to Yasukuni shrine despite our request and strongly urge that it is not repeated," Ban said in Seoul.
Japanese business executives have been worried that the strain in diplomatic ties will hurt burgeoning economic relations between China and Japan especially.
Japan and China have annual trade of about $212 billion, and Japanese exports to China account for some 13 percent of Japan's global exports, second only to 22 percent to the United States.
Tokyo stock market investors, recalling a slide in share prices after anti-Japanese protests in China in April, were wary of the possible fallout from Koizumi's visit to the shrine.
TENSE TIES WITH NEIGHBOURS
Koizumi has repeatedly said he visits the Shinto shrine to pray for peace and honor the dead, not to glorify militarism.
He has also avoided going to the shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's 1945 surrender that ended World War Two and an emotive date in the region.
But his visits on other occasions have nonetheless infuriated China and other countries.
"It's fine for the prime minister to stick to his beliefs, but given his status as the Japanese leader he should think about relations between countries and the people's feelings," said Choi Young-soo, 44, a South Korean on a sightseeing trip to the shrine. "He should not stir up ill feelings."
Bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 colonization run deep in North and South Korea, while China has not forgotten Tokyo's invasion and occupation before and during World War Two.
Relations between China and Japan hit their lowest level in decades in April when thousands of Chinese took to the streets in sometimes violent anti-Japan protests.
After the April protests, Tokyo's Nikkei share average slid below the 11,000 mark for the first time this year.
The benchmark, which has since recovered, was up slightly in afternoon trade on Monday at 13,454.66.
Despite a huge victory for Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a general election last month, Japan's public is divided over the Yasukuni visits.
Courts have given conflicting rulings on whether they violate the constitutional separation of religion and state.
Takenori Kanzaki, the leader of LDP coalition partner New Komeito -- a Buddhist-backed party -- told reporters Koizumi's visit was extremely regrettable, Kyodo news agency reported.
But Hiroki Kanematsu, a 20-year-old law student who went to Yasukuni to watch Koizumi, said he felt Koizumi should not halt his visits "just because of what China says."
Another student, Ai Yamaguchi, took a different view.
"It would be fine for him to go as an individual, but he is the prime minister, so it is not good," she said.
"We should seek good ties with China and South Korea because they are our close neighbors."
Talks between China and Japan aimed at resolving a separate row over rights to natural gas resources in the East China Sea have made little progress, and another round has been expected later this month.
(Additional reporting by Teruaki Ueno in Tokyo and Jack Kim in Seoul)
Categories: Japan, YasukuniShrine, China, SouthKorea, NorthKorea, Taiwan