TOKYO, Sept. 30 - A Japanese court on Friday handed a rare victory to opponents of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a war shrine, ruling that the visits violated Japan's constitutional separation of religion and the state.
Experts said the ruling by the Osaka High Court probably would not force the Japanese prime minister to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including those hanged for criminal conduct during World War II. But they called it a symbolic victory for critics here and elsewhere, who regard the visits as a measure of Japan's lack of contrition for wartime atrocities.
"This will strengthen Koizumi's opponents," said Hiroshi Nakanishi, a professor of international politics at Kyoto University. "More people will be encouraged to speak out against the visits."
Mr. Koizumi questioned the ruling but left his intentions about future visits unclear.
There was no immediate reaction from either China or South Korea, the most vociferous objectors to Mr. Koizumi's visits to the shrine, as well as to Japanese history textbooks that critics say underplay atrocities Japan committed during the war.
This is the second time a Japanese court has ruled against the visits while courts have rejected eight other cases, including a ruling Thursday by the Tokyo High Court dismissing a civil suit. Plaintiffs in that suit said they would appeal to Japan's Supreme Court.The rest of the article