(* This is a provisional translation by "WIP ジャパン" for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)
Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Aso
Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2006, 11:07 a.m.
Place: Briefing Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Yasukuni Shrine
This morning, Prime Minister Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine. Please tell us how you view this.
Well, it's a regular event. Visiting Yasukuni Shrine on August 15 was mentioned at the time of the LDP presidential election 5 years ago when all four candidates stated that they would go. I recall being the only one who said that I would not visit on August 15, saying that I would visit on a different date. However, when Prime Minister Koizumi became prime minister, the date of the visit was brought forward to, I think, August 13. I don't know exactly what the meaning of this was. But, in the end, the result was the same, and for reasons unknown to me, the August 13 date was changed. He may well have strongly wished to make good his pledge made at that time.
You stated in the personal views that you presented the other day regarding Yasukuni that the issue should be discussed apart from politics and divested of its political background. Conversely, though, won't the prime minister's visit this time produce yet another uproar and invite criticism from overseas?
That hasn't really changed over these five years. I don't feel that the specifics of this case make any difference. Whether or not the visit takes place in August, or in April for the shrine's annual festival, or for its fall festival, I believe that the same voices would be raised.
You presented your personal view the other day and explained your opinions, but I wonder what your thoughts are on the way the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni Shrine is attracting attention both nationwide and from overseas.
The way I see it, the truth of the matter is that, more than anything else, there is a desire on both the part of the spirits of the war dead and of the bereaved families for the paying of respects in quietude regardless of whether it is on August 15 or not. There is no desire whatsoever for this to have become political issue, much less a platform for political rivalry. Therefore, my personal view of the matter is that, whether visited in a public or private capacity, as long as the shrine is a religious corporation, it is going to be entangled in issues raised by articles 9, 19, and 20 of the constitution. It must be placed as far as possible from the realm of things political. The relatives and the spirits of the war dead no doubt share these sentiments. The fact is that no one wants to listen at all to voices that propose doing things for the sake of what our neighbors may be saying. Furthermore, the stance taken towards worshiping at Yasukuni varies between the government and the soldiers. There are those who willingly set out, and others who were unwillingly drafted. There was a wide array of thoughts and opinions amongst the 2.6 million who died. The thing is, however, that this country pledged to honor the spirits of those who died. Therefore, in that sense, it is my opinion that the nation has a duty to worship those fallen as a nation, bestowing on them the highest honor.
Today, there was a backlash from China and the Republic of Korea concerning Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to the shrine. How do you see Japan's diplomacy with China and the Republic of Korea being affected by this in the period ahead?
China and the Republic of Korea have been saying the same thing since four years ago, and, in the same way as we have done up till now, we should conscientiously explain to them Prime Minister Koizumi's thoughts on the matter.
Will you visit Yasukuni Shrine today?
No, not today.
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