The New leader of Japan's largest opposition party suggested on Sunday that the 14 Class-A war criminals be separately enshrined from the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, Kyodo News reported.
"So-called Class-A war criminals should not have been enshrined at Yasukuni, which honors the war dead," Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) said on TV, "If Yasukuni is back on form, I think a prime minister and the emperor could offer prayers there."
Ozawa won the voting within the DPJ lawmakers on Friday to become the new president, after Seiji Maehara resigned the post on March 31 over false accusations a member lawmaker made towards the ruling party.
The war criminals, whom Ozawa said were responsible for leading Japan to war, were enshrined at Yasukuni in 1978. Along with them, over 2 million war dead were also honored there.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has visited the Shinto shrine for five times since taking office in April 2001, drawing indignation and protests from Asian countries, including China and South Korea, that suffered from Japan's atrocity in its aggressive war.