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Koizumi Worship Attendance Creates Dissension

Posted August. 17, 2001 08:56,   


Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro faces trouble after the dinner held in memory of the war dead on August 15 and his attendance at Yasukuni Shrine on August 13.

The dinner speech contained the statement, ``Our country (Japan) has particularly made Asians suffer great loss and suffering.`` which clearly puts the issue of responsibility on Japan`s shoulders. The passage was not in the draft written by government aids, but written directly by the Prime Minister.

The Free Democratic Party’s Representative Hirasawa Kassaei expressed his discomfort, saying ``It feels like even the lowest ranking minor official has done something wrong.`` He criticized that it surpassed the content of the apology of the `Murayama Statement` and that ``To say such things in front of bereaved families steps over the line.``

The worship attendance, which was pulled forward from the scheduled date to August 13, also stirred up adverse winds.

A nonpartisan emergency assembly gathered on August 15 to hold `a nonpartisan representative meeting to actualize Prime Minister Koizumi`s visit to Yasukuni Shrine` which critics accused of `bowing down to external influence` and `damaging national interest` Those gathered decided to request another visit on August 15 of next year.

There are also reports of a Shinto purification rite being performed for the Shrine visit. When former Prime Minister Nakasoni Yasuhiro made the first formal visit to the Shrine 1985, he refused to perform the purification rite because it may violate the constitutional separation of religion and state. The Prime Minister`s aids stated, `there will be no problems with the constitution` while the opposition party is preparing to make a close scrutiny.

Changes on the Shrine issue have also damaged Koizumi`s image as a man of his word. Prime Minister aids are concerned that this may cause problems in `structural reform without sacred grounds` They may have given cause for grief to factions opposed to reform.

Prime Minister Koizumi is taking the stance that he will try to resolve the thorny issues with Korea and China through summit talks. ``If the situation permits it, it would be important to share a conversation aimed at mutual and friendly relations.`` said Koizumi. Japan is discussing issues around holding independent talks at the UN Children`s Summit taking place in New York City in September, and the APEC meeting in Shanghai, China in October.

Shim Kyu-Sun ksshim@donga.com