Another Japan minister mulls Yasukuni shrine visit on war anniversary

Another Japanese minister is considering making a visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a government official said Saturday.

Apart from Keiji Furuya, who handles the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals, at least two other members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet may visit Yasukuni.

China and South Korea view the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class A war criminals along with millions of Japan's war dead, as a symbol of Japan's past militarism and have criticized previous visits to the shrine by prime ministers and lawmakers.

Furuya will finalize his decision after consulting with the prime minister's office, the official said.

Furuya, who concurrently serves as chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, was ambiguous in his news conference Thursday, saying he will make a "timely and appropriate decision" on whether to visit Yasukuni.

The two other Cabinet members who may visit the Shinto shrine are administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo.

Earlier this week, Abe told a press conference, "Whether Cabinet ministers will visit (Yasukuni) in their private capacity is an issue of their belief. So they are free" to go.

But the premier declined to say whether he himself would visit the shrine.

Speculation is rife that Abe is unlikely to visit the shrine to avoid further fueling tensions between Japan and neighboring countries, especially China and South Korea.

Abe refrained from visiting the shrine during its annual spring festival in April and only sent a "masakaki" tree traditionally used in Shinto rituals, with his name written below his title of prime minister. Even that offering sparked criticism from China and South Korea.

During the spring festival, Furuya, Inada, Shindo and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso visited the shrine.

Aso has said he would not visit the shrine on the 68th war anniversary next week.