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Former Japanese prime ministers visit war-related shrine

FORMER Japanese prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo's war-related Yasukuni Shrine this morning on the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Prime Minister Taro Aso has indicated he will not pay tribute at the shrine on the day and only one of his Cabinet ministers -- Consumer Affairs Minister Seiko Noda -- is expected to visit the shrine today, according to Kyodo News.

The shrine, which honors some 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 leading war criminals, is seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Koizumi was the first sitting prime minister in 21 years to visit the shrine in 2006. His visit soured Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors.

Abe's visit today is his second in a row, although he had avoided the shrine while he was prime minister.

Japan's main opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama, widely tipped to become the next prime minister after the Aug. 30 general election, had indicated that he would not visit the shrine if elected.


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