Japanese Prime Minister to visit Tokyo war shrine Monday morning, Kyodo reports

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is scheduled to visit Monday a Tokyo war shrine that Asian critics say glorifies militarism, news reports indicated.

The premier will pay his respects at an autumn festival beginning Monday at the shrine, Kyodo reported, quoting sources close to the Prime Minister.

The visit would be Koizumi's fifth to the war shrine since becoming prime minister in April 2001. He last went to Yasukuni in January 2004.

Neither cabinet spokesman Yu Kameoka nor Yasukuni Shrine could immediately confirm the report. However, a shrine official said a group of lawmakers is scheduled to visit Tuesday.

The shrine in central Tokyo honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century _ including convicted war criminals executed by the Allies after World War II.

The Osaka High Court in western Japan ruled last month that Koizumi's visits violated the constitution, but the decision lacked the legal force to stop further visits.

Past visits by Koizumi have contributed to a serious deterioration in ties between Tokyo and Seoul and Beijing.

China, South Korea and other victims of Japanese wartime aggression protest the visits, saying they pay homage to Japan's wartime, emperor-based ideology, AP reported. V.A.

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