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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Pressure over Japan PM's shrine visit
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paints eyes on a Dharma doll, a mascot of victory
Mr Koizumi says he wants to honour the war dead
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is under renewed pressure to cancel a visit to a controversial war shrine, following his party's successes in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Mr Koizumi has repeatedly said he plans to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on 15 August, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.


My basic stance is that I will make a visit

Junichiro Koizumi
But he appeared to tone down his commitment to it on Monday, saying he would make a "mature decision" about it.

The shrine is controversial because as well as being dedicated to millions of ordinary Japanese soldiers, it enshrines convicted war criminals.

The planned visit has angered South Korea and China, both victims of Japan's military aggression in the 1930s and 1940s. Opposition parties have argued against the visit, saying it would further damage relations.

Pressure

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said she met Mr Koizumi on Sunday and urged him to change his mind, following a request from China's foreign minister last week.

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka
Ms Tanaka has asked Mr Koizumi to reconsider
"I clearly told [Mr Koizumi] that I do not want him to visit Yasukuni Shrine," Ms Tanaka told reporters on Monday. "A final decision should be made by him, but I want him to think again of what kind of person the prime minister is.

"I think he will think about it seriously as he still has two weeks."

Speaking after his ruling coalition's victory in upper house elections Mr Koizumi said he still intended to go to the shrine, but would make a final decision "very soon".

"It had been agreed that once the result of the election became known, that we would exchange views on this matter again," he told reporters. "I will listen to their opinions without prejudice and will make a mature decision.

"My basic stance is that I will make a visit."

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Mr Koizumi has made a private visit before
Mr Koizumi again defended his reason for wanting to go.

"Behind the current peace and prosperity, there were sacrifices by war victims," he said. "It is natural to pay respect to these war victims."

Mr Koizumi has visited the shrine in a personal capacity, but if he does go next month it will be the first official visit by a prime minister since Yasuhiro Nakasone went there in 1985. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto made what he said was a private visit on his birthday in July 1996.

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See also:

29 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's Koizumi secures victory
11 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi to honour war dead
10 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Anger deepens in history book row
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi courts shrine controversy
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's controversial war shrine
04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan stands firm on history book
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