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Abe seeks chance to visit Yasukuni
Publication Date : 17-08-2013
Planned visit to be timed during annual festivals in spring or autumn
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is believed to be considering a visit to Yasukuni Shrine during its annual festivals in spring or autumn, but some observers say autumn would be difficult as Abe is seeking summit meetings with Chinese and South Korean leaders.
Abe refrained from visiting the shrine during his first term as prime minister but later said he felt “extreme regret”. He is believed to be carefully gauging the timing of a visit during his second term.
He is reportedly contemplating a visit during Yasukuni’s reitaisai festival in spring and autumn, considered the most important ritual at the shrine.
Before then Prime Minister Takeo Miki became in 1975 the first prime minister to visit the shrine on the August 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, most visits to Yasukuni by prime ministers were made during the spring or autumn festivals.
After Abe resigned as prime minister in September 2007, he visited the shrine almost every year on the anniversary of the war’s end and during the spring and autumn festivals.
Recently, he reportedly told people close to him, “If I visit [Yasukuni Shrine] as prime minister, it will be during reitaisai.”
There is optimism, according to a government source, that “[a Yasukuni visit during] reitaisai wouldn’t provoke as much backlash from China and South Korea as going on August 15, which reminds them of the Pacific War.”
But some observers say it might be difficult for Abe to visit the shrine during the upcoming autumn festival, scheduled to be held from October 17 to 20, because he is trying to set up summit meetings with leaders of the two nations in autumn.
“Visiting [Yasukuni Shrine] around the time of the summit meetings would irritate China and South Korea too strongly,” a diplomatic source said.
Many meetings of national leaders are planned for this autumn, including a Group of 20 summit meeting and an Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Three meeting among 10 Asean nations plus Japan, China and South Korea.
The government hopes to realise formal summit meetings through informal contact, such as exchanging greetings, between the leaders concerned on these occasions.
“As the prime minister is likely to stay in office for a long period, there is no need for him to rush. He’ll surely have a chance someday,” a source close to Abe said.
Abe will likely decide based on the situation with China and South Korea, and public sentiment.