Abe to skip visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15

August 14, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

To prevent relations with China and South Korea from further deteriorating, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided not to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the date marking the end of World War II, sources said.

Instead, Abe will make a personal monetary offering in his position as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the shrine, which memorializes Japan’s war dead along with 14 Class-A war criminals, according to the sources.

Abe has been forced into a delicate balancing act concerning Yasukuni Shrine.

The prime minister has been repeatedly asked about his plans for Aug. 15. His usual reply has been: “Because the very question of whether I visit the shrine will by itself become a political and diplomatic issue, I will not say whether or not I will visit.”

A visit on that date would further aggravate relations with China and South Korea that have soured due to disputes over the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima islets. However, Abe also wants to pay his respects to the nation’s war dead.

He has said that his failure to visit Yasukuni Shrine during his first stint as prime minister in 2006-07 was “extremely regrettable.” That comment led some to believe Abe might visit the shrine on Aug. 15 this year.

In April, during the spring festival at Yasukuni, Abe did not personally visit the shrine. He only offered a “masakaki,” a ritual implement consisting of a potted “sakaki,” a low evergreen tree.

The spring and autumn festivals at Yasukuni are considered the most important events at the shrine. Abe apparently decided not to elevate Aug. 15 to the same level of importance at the shrine.

Around the time of this year’s spring festival, four members of the Abe Cabinet visited Yasukuni--Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Yoshitaka Shindo, minister for internal affairs and communications, Keiji Furuya, minister in charge of the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals, and Tomomi Inada, the state minister in charge of administrative reform.

China and South Korea sharply criticized those visits.

Inada has said she plans to visit Yasukuni on Aug. 15. Furuya is now leaning toward a visit to the shrine on that day.

Shindo has yet to make clear what he intends to do.

Aso has not visited the shrine on Aug. 15 in the past, and he will likely follow that practice this year.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida also do not plan to visit Yasukuni on Aug. 15.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the grave of Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859) in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Aug. 13. Yoshida was a scholar and teacher of military arts and politics. (Ryutaro Abe)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the grave of Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859) in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Aug. 13. Yoshida was a scholar and teacher of military arts and politics. (Ryutaro Abe)

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  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the grave of Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859) in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Aug. 13. Yoshida was a scholar and teacher of military arts and politics. (Ryutaro Abe)

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