Group of lawmakers proposes new state memorial as alternative to Yasukuni

Toyko, Japan - A group of some 135 Japanese lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties adopted a proposal Thursday urging the government to build a new state memorial as an alternative to the much-criticized war shrine causing Tokyo's diplomatic row with Asian neighbors.

The group, headed by senior ruling lawmaker Taku Yamasaki and joined by members of coalition partner New Komei Party and opposition Democrats, approved the proposal at a general meeting Thursday, according to Michio Matsugu, secretary to Yamasaki of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The proposal urges the government to promptly conduct a study to find a site and a name for a new secular facility as an alternative to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors executed war criminals along with 2.5 million war dead.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni have sparked outrage in China and South Korea, which say the shrine glorifies Japan's past militarism. Critics also say official shrine visits violates Japan's constitutional division of state and religion.

Even though Yasukuni traditionally served as a place to honor the war dead, "an official visit may pose a possible constitutional violation," the proposal said.

While various Japanese government panels and lawmakers have studied the possibility of a secular memorial, the idea has never been seriously considered, mainly because of strong resistance from a powerful lobbying group of families of the war dead, traditionally headed by a senior ruling lawmaker.