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Abe refuses to say if he will visit Yasukuni during spring festival.

TOKYO, April 20 Kyodo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to say Friday whether he will visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine during its three-day annual spring festival from Saturday.

''As I have said all along, I still uphold the desire to pray for the souls of those who sacrificed themselves for the country,'' Abe said in response to reporters' questions. ''But for as long as this is a diplomatic and political issue, I don't think it's appropriate for me to say whether or not I will go.''

Visits to Yasukuni, which honors World War II Class-A war criminals along with the war dead, by Japanese leaders have stirred diplomatic disputes with China, South Korea and other Asian neighbors that suffered from Japanese wartime aggression.

Abe's aides said Thursday the premier is likely to refrain from going to Yasukuni during this year's spring festival out of diplomatic considerations, especially amid a growing mood of friendship with China following Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan last week.

Abe, who visited the Shinto shrine in Tokyo a year ago as chief Cabinet secretary, has adopted the strategy of staying ambiguous on the issue since succeeding Junichiro Koizumi, who enraged Beijing, Seoul and others with his repeated visits to Yasukuni.

Last year, Abe secretly visited the shrine on the morning of April 15, days before the annual spring festival began.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Apr 23, 2007
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