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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Japan's Abe shuns Yasukuni visit
Yasukuni shrine (archive picture)
Neighbours say the shrine glorifies Japan's militaristic past
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stayed away from a controversial war shrine, as Japan marked the 62nd anniversary of its surrender in World War II.

Mr Abe attended a commemoration ceremony in the capital, Tokyo, but did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine.

His predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, made several visits, sparking strong criticism from regional neighbours.

The shrine honours Japan's war dead, including 14 people convicted as Class A war criminals after World War II.

Mr Abe is known to have visited the shrine before he took office in September last year, but since then he has stayed away.

He told journalists he would not discuss plans for a visit "as long as the issue remains a diplomatic problem".

Fifteen members of his 16-strong Cabinet also stayed away.

Healing rifts

Mr Abe, a known conservative, wants to reform Japan's pacifist constitution and has advocated a more prominent role for Japan on the world stage.

But he has also worked to heal ties with China and South Korea. These ties were harmed under Mr Koizumi's leadership, mainly because of his repeated Yasukuni visits.

A group of 46 MPs did visit the shrine this year, but the number was noticeably smaller than the 62 who visited last year.

Mr Koizumi, who handed power to Mr Abe last September, also paid an early morning visit.


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