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Japanese PM Won’t Visit Shrine

August 11, 2001

TOKYO (AP) _ Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s closest aides said Saturday he is still considering a visit to a war memorial although Japan’s Asian neighbors have tried to dissuade him.

Koizumi has repeatedly stated his desire to go to the Yasukuni shrine on Wednesday _ the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.

But in recent weeks he has wavered in the face of bitter protests by South Korea and China, which see Yasukuni as a monument to Japanese militarism.

The debate has become a national obsession and divided Koizumi’s three-party coalition.

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki and former Secretary General Koichi Kato met with the prime minister Saturday evening.

``Mr. Kato and I told the prime minister that it would be necessary to find ways make a ‘soft-landing’ to avoid too much confusion, but the prime minister said he still had to think some more,″ Yamasaki said.

``We discussed it very thoroughly, `` Kato said. ``He was having difficulty making up his mind.″

Yamasaki and Kato urged Koizumi to worship at Yasukuni before Wednesday to avoid a diplomatic dispute, Kyodo News agency said, citing government and party officials it did not identify by name.

LDP officials were not available for comment late Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, a senior member of the LDP-led ruling coalition government said he thought Koizumi would back away from the visit to avoid infuriating Japan’s Asian neighbors.

Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary-general of the New Komeito Party, spoke in an interview broadcast by the Nippon Broadcasting System.

Among the 2.5 million Japanese soldiers honored at Yasukuni are executed war criminals including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who led Japan during World War II.

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