Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should refrain from visiting the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo by considering the sentiment of Japan's neighbors in Asia, his coalition partner said Monday.
"I believe the prime minister will make a sensible response and I want to ask (Abe) to take such a position," New Komeito party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters after the ruling camp of the New Komeito and Abe's Liberal Democratic Party marked a sweeping victory in Sunday's House of Councillors election.
Taking heart from the electoral result, some observers believe Abe may accelerate his pursuit of right-leaning policy goals such as visiting the Shinto shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a move that would be vehemently opposed by neighboring countries, most notably China and South Korea.
During his first stint as premier for a year through September 2007, Abe did not visit the shrine on the anniversary. Yamaguchi said that at that time Abe "acted with much consideration and neighboring countries well recognized that."
Yasukuni honors convicted Class-A war criminals along with millions of Japan's war dead. China and South Korea, which suffered Japan's militarism during World War II, have warned that visits by prime ministers to the shrine can be seen as glossing over such a wartime history.
Abe, who took office for the second time in December, told reporters Sunday, "It is natural to pay homage to those who fought for Japan," but added, "I will not say whether or not I will go" to the shrine.