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Japan Rejects Alternative to Criticized War Shrine

The current Japanese government will not consider building an alternative memorial to the much-criticized Yasukuni war shrine, and next year's budget will not include money to study the idea, a top official said Thursday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said no proposal to create a secular memorial to Japan's war dead would be studied as long as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is in power.

Koizumi is scheduled to step down in September 2006.

"It won't happen under the Koizumi government," Abe, a leading conservative politician, said when asked when the alternative memorial would be put under consideration.

Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni, which honors executed war criminals along with 2.5 million war dead, have sparked outrage in China and South Korea and have contributed to a sharp deterioration in relations between Japan and its neighbors.

Critics consider the shrine, which runs a museum that seeks to justify Japanese past aggression in Asia, a glorification of the country's past militarism. The visits are also attacked as a violation of Japan's constitutional division of state and religion.

Some have called for the construction of a secular memorial to Japan's fallen soldiers that would not also honor war criminals and would be unaffiliated with any religion. Yasukuni belongs to Japan's native Shinto religion, which is headed by the emperor.

While various Japanese governments have assigned panels to study the idea of a secular memorial, the idea has never been seriously considered. It is opposed by a powerful lobbying group of families of the war dead.

There had been some speculation that the government would earmark money in the 2006 budget now under consideration for the alternative memorial, but Abe said the government would not propose any.

"We decided not to earmark a budget for next year to study a new state memorial," Abe said.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies December 23, 2005)

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