Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi defended again on Tuesday for his contentious annual visit to a shrine honoring war criminals of World War II.
The visits to the Yasukuni Shrine are "aimed at offering sincere feeling based on lament. It is natural to feel this way as a Japanese," Koizumi said before the House of Councilors Budget Committee, responding to criticism from a opposition party lawmaker that his action has made Japan's relations with neighboring countries on the rocks.
"I bear no intention at all to worsen foreign relations," he said.
Yasukuni Shrine honors 14 Class-A World War II criminals along with 2.47 million Japanese dead in wars since the mid-19th century. Koizumi has made four visits as premier since he took office in 2001, with the latest one on the first day of this year. He reiterated his determination last month to continue the visit, saying he did not feel uncomfortable for the behavior.
Last Saturday, China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing pointed out that only when the Japanese leaders take history as a mirror and look into the future, can the friendship between China and Japan develop from generation to generation.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun also criticized on March 1 Koizumi's wrong headed practice.
"A national leader should not behave like reckless members of the public or politicians who are driven to gain popularity," he said during a speech marking the 85th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement.