It always seems to cause problems when you talk about history, so why not just avoid it? And let me ask a related question: In order to put these issues aside, can you promise that as prime minister, you will not visit Yasukuni Shrine in either your official or your private capacity?
I never raised the issue of history myself. During [recent] deliberations in the Diet, I faced questions from other members, and I had to answer them. When doing so, I kept saying that the issue is one for historians, since otherwise you could politicize it or turn it into a diplomatic issue.
About the Yasukuni Shrine, let me humbly urge you to think about your own place to pay homage to the war dead, Arlington National Cemetery, in the United States. The presidents of the United States go there, and as Japan’s prime minister, I have visited. Professor Kevin Doak of Georgetown University points out that visiting the cemetery does not mean endorsing slavery, even though Confederate soldiers are buried there. I am of a view that we can make a similar argument about Yasukuni, which enshrines the souls of those who lost their lives in the service of their country.
But with all due respect, there are 13 Class A war criminals buried at Yasukuni, which is why it makes China and South Korea crazy when Japanese prime ministers go there. Wouldn’t it be easier just to promise not to go?
I think it’s quite natural for a Japanese leader to offer prayer for those who sacrificed their lives for their country, and I think this is no different from what other world leaders do.