Former Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa on Sunday urged sitting Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi not to visit the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo because such a move would hurt Japan-China relations.
"It is better to remove any factors that could disturb relations between Japanese and Chinese government leaders," Miyazawa, who was the Japanese prime minister from 1991 to 1993, said on a TV Asahi talk show.
Miyazawa also indicated that Koizumi's visit to the Shinto shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals responsible for Japan's aggression against its Asian neighbors before and during the World War II, is one of the reasons that mutual visits with Chinese leaders have come to a halt.
Asian countries that suffered from Japanese army's atrocities in Japan's aggressive war, particularly China and South Korea, have strongly protested Koizumi's visits to the shrine.
Koizumi has visited the Yasukuni Shrine once a year since taking office in April 2001. Last month, the premier indicated a plan at a parliament meeting to visit the shrine again sometime this year.