Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda ruled out on Tuesday a visit to Tokyo's Yasakuni shrine, seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, on the Aug 15 anniversary of the country's surrender in World War Two.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi upset China and South Korea by visiting the shrine when he was in power and Japanese lawmakers, including some serving cabinet ministers, visit the Shinto shrine each anniversary to honour the war dead.
Asked whether he will go to Yasukuni shrine in August on the 63rd anniversary of Japan's surrender, Fukuda, who will attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony this week, told reporters: "Please look at my past behaviour."
The 72-year-old premier vowed last year that he would not pay his respects at the shrine, which venerates Japan's 2.5 million war dead, including some convicted war criminals.
Finance Minister Bunmei Ibuki, newly appointed in a cabinet reshuffle last week, also said he would not visit the shrine on the anniversary.
"I have never visited Yasukuni on Aug. 15 and I will maintain that stance," Ibuki said, adding that while he paid his respect to the war dead, it was for his personal belief and "not something I do as a person holding a public position".
Japan's Jiji Press reported that justice minister Okiharu Yasuoka and agricultural minister Seiichi Ota were the only two of the Fukuda's 17 cabinet members who said they planned to visit the shrine on the anniversary.