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Koizumi Pays Another Visit to War Shrine

April 21, 2002|From Associated Press

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a surprise visit today to a controversial shrine devoted to Japan's war dead, a move that immediately triggered anger in neighboring South Korea.

Koizumi wore a black tie and tails as he followed a Shinto priest through the cypress pillars of Yasukuni shrine, which honors some war criminals among the 2.5 million Japanese war dead.

Regional observers attach significance to whether visits to the shrine by Cabinet officials are made in a public or private capacity--and Koizumi made no effort to disguise that he went as the nation's leader.

"My visit was as Japan's prime minister," he told reporters after the visit. "The purpose . . . was to pay respect to those who left behind family and sacrificed their lives for the nation."

However, in a gesture likely to assuage some bitterness over the visit, Koizumi said he would not visit Yasukuni in August--the period when Japan marks its surrender in World War II.

Koizumi's trip last August to the shrine, where convicted war criminals are worshiped, infuriated South Korea, China and other Asian countries that suffered from Japanese militarism.

It was not immediately clear why Koizumi chose to visit today.

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