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Japanese Cabinet Members, Lawmakers Visit Yasukuni Shrine

Two cabinet ministers and a group of lawmakers on Monday visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 notorious Class-A war criminals responsible for the country's aggressive war against Asian neighbors.


Against the backdrop of strained ties with neighboring countries over issues related to the war, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi indicated last Friday he would not visit the shrine on or around August 15.


He offered flowers at the tomb for the unknown war dead at the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Monday.


Health Minister Hidehisa Otsuji and Environment Minister Yuriko Koike were the two cabinet members who visited the shrine on Monday.


Asked about the protests from Japan's Asian neighbors over Japanese leaders' Yasukuni Shrine visits, Otsuji said: "Each politician visiting the shrine likely has their own reasons. I visited with my own."


Meanwhile, Koike said she visited the shrine as a "private citizen."


In addition, about 50 lawmakers, who belong to a nonpartisan group that makes Yasukuni visits en masse, and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara visited the shrine Monday.


Koizumi made his most recent annual visit to the shrine on January 1, 2004, the fourth since he took office in April 2001.


The shrine was set up in 1869 under Emperor Meiji to honor those who died in civil and foreign wars. Class-A war criminals from World War II were added to the list of the enshrined at the shrine in 1978. Hence, the shrine has been regarded as a symbol of Japanese militarism.


Japanese leaders' visits to the shrine have been strongly denounced by many Asian countries, including China and South Korea, where Japan's aggression caused great sufferings.


Koizumi on Monday apologized for Japan's wartime colonization and invasions in Asia on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the country's surrender in World War II.


He also pledged Japan would never forget the "terrible lessons" of the war.


(Xinhua News Agency August 16, 2005)

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