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Japan Leader May Visit War Shrine

August 2, 2001

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told China’s ambassador on Thursday that he was ``thinking carefully″ about whether to visit a shrine honoring Japan’s war dead.

Koizumi earlier said he would visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.

The proposed visit has infuriated neighbors such as China and South Korea who remember atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers. Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka has told Chinese and South Korean officials that she would try to convince Koizumi to forego the visit.

``I will make a decision after thinking carefully about the issue and listening to the opinions of various people,″ the Japanese Foreign Ministry quoted Koizumi as telling Chinese Ambassador Wu Dawei on Thursday.

Koizumi told Wu that Japan places great importance on its ties with China.

The proposed visit would be the first by a sitting prime minister since 1996. Japan’s main opposition party has warned it would damage Japan’s relations with its neighbors.

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