Koizumi Visits War Shrine, as He Pledged

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rime Minister Junichiro Koizumi prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine on Monday morning, fulfilling a promise to make annual visits to a war memorial considered a symbol of unrepentant Japanese militarism in Asia.

The visit was likely to further strain Japan's relations with China and South Korea, whose leaders have been demanding that Mr. Koizumi stop his visits. The Japanese prime minister argues they merely pay homage to this country's fallen soldiers.

As an indication of the visit's sensitive nature, Seoul quickly summoned Japan's ambassador to South Korea to lodge a protest, and Kyodo News reported that the Japanese Embassy in Beijing warned Japanese citizens that the visit could cause "strong reactions from the Chinese government as well as the public."

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing have declined this year to their poorest in decades, partly because of Chinese objections to the visits. The shrine's leaders and museum strongly present the view that Japan waged war in Asia to liberate it from Western powers and was pushed into World War II by the United States.

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