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|Thursday, August 02, 2001, updated at 20:36(GMT+8)|
Japanese Civic Groups Urge Koizumi to Cancel Visit to Yasukuni ShrineJapanese civic groups opposed to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's planned mid-August visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday urged Koizumi to cancel his plan, threatening to him for violating Japan's Constitution if he goes.
About 30 members of various groups such as religious organizations, bereaved families of war dead and bodies supporting war victims in Asia visited the Japanese Cabinet Office to jointly hand a petition to Koizumi, urging him to cancel the visit, members said.
Some members told an official with the office that they are considering filing a suit against Koizumi if he does not cancel the visit, because his trip to the Shinto shrine would violate Article 20 of the Constitution, which stipulates the separation of religion and the state.
Meanwhile, Kazuyoshi Endo, senior vice minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, told a press conference Thursday he is against Koizumi's visit to the shrine regardless of whether it is official or private.
"It is difficult to discuss drawing a line between public and private affairs of the premier, who represents a country. Moreover, it concerns Article 20 of the Constitution," said Endo, who belongs to the New Komeito party, an ally of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is headed by Koizumi.
Koizumi, who was elected prime minister in April, pledged in his campaign for the presidency of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that he would visit the shrine in an official capacity as prime minister.
Despite strong opposition from China and South Korea, Koizumi repeated Monday he has not changed his mind about visiting the shrine on the August 15 anniversary of Japan's surrender in the World War II.
The Yasukuni shrine, a bastion of the wartime government- sponsored Shintoism and symbol of militarism in Japan before and during the World War II, houses the memorial tablets of 14 class-A war criminals, including wartime personnel and officials who have died since 1853 in Japan's various wars.
Visits to the shrine by Japan's public figures often draw criticism from other Asian countries which were invaded by Japanese forces before and during the World War II.
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