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U.S. Lawmakers Urge Next Japan PM to Avoid Yasukuni (Update1)
By Aaron Sheldrick
Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. lawmakers on a congressional committee on foreign relations called for Japan's next leader to stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which includes convicted war criminals among the dead it honors.
Two senior members of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee criticized Japanese leaders for the shrine visits and for the treatment of World War II in the shrine's museum and some school textbooks that they say downplays atrocities committed by Japan.
``Paying one's respect to war criminals is morally bankrupt and unworthy of a great nation such as Japan,'' Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said according to a transcript. ``This practice must end.''
Relations between Japan and its biggest trading partner, China, have slumped to their worst in three decades because of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni. Japan's differences with its neighbors make it harder to resolve regional issues like North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the congressional committee's chairman said.
``North Korea, as it reminded all Americans with its Fourth of July missile launches, remains a major source of regional instability, and maintaining the peace in the Taiwan Strait is a constant challenge for us,'' Henry Hyde, a Republican, said. ``All of these sources of tension in the Asia Pacific region require that we and our allies forge a united front. However, sadly, history keeps getting in the way.''
Koizumi steps down as president of the ruling Liberal Party later this month and is expected to replaced by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who is the frontrunner, according to polls.
The president of the LDP automatically becomes prime minister because of its parliamentary majority.
Abe has endorsed Koizumi's visits and indicated he may go should he become prime minister.
Yasukuni has soured relations between Japan and its neighbors for decades despite repeated official apologies for Japan's aggression last century, when its Imperial Army invaded and occupied much of the region until its defeat.
Among the 2.5 million people enshrined at Yasukuni are 14 men convicted of war crimes, including World War II leader Hideki Tojo, who was hanged for crimes against humanity. The shrine's museum, called Yushukan, says Japan's invasion of Asia was to liberate the region from colonial rule and that it was forced into war with the U.S.
``It's troubling to those of my generation to learn that Yushukan Museum in Tokyo is teaching younger generations of Japanese that the Second World War in Asia was launched by Tokyo to free the peoples of Asia and the Pacific from the yoke of Western imperialism,'' Hyde said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo at email@example.com .
Last Updated: September 15, 2006 01:24 EDT