• Kyodo

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Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan on Thursday warned that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi could set back bilateral relations if he goes ahead with his plan to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15.

During a meeting with Hiromu Nonaka, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic, Tang said Koizumi’s visit in an official capacity to the Shinto shrine that honors Japan’s war dead would dash plans to use next year’s 30th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations as a stepping stone for further development of friendly ties, according to LDP officials.

Koizumi plans to visit the shrine, where seven Class A war criminals are enshrined, on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.

Tang issued a similar call for Koizumi to cancel the visit during talks on July 24 with his Japanese counterpart, Makiko Tanaka.

During the talks, Tang said Koizumi’s visit to the shrine would anger the Chinese public and thus endanger friendly bilateral ties, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official told reporters.

“If Prime Minister Koizumi pays a visit to the shrine on Aug. 15, it will draw broadsides from Chinese people,” Tang was quoted as saying. “And I am worried that the visit may undermine the foundation of the friendly relationship between the two nations.”

Nonaka told Tang in Thursday’s talks that it is impossible to enforce the removal of the war criminals from among those honored.

“When I was chief Cabinet secretary, I made efforts to realize separate enshrining of the Class A war criminals, but I found it impossible for the government or other authorities to enshrine them separately,” Nonaka said, according to the officials.

Nonaka served as chief Cabinet secretary from July 1998 to October 1999 under late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

The shrine issue is expected to dominate Nonaka’s talks with other high-level Chinese officials during his six-day visit, which ends Sunday.

Makoto Koga, also a former LDP secretary general; Akihiro Ota, the Diet Affairs Committee chairman of New Komeito; and Toshihiro Nikai, the Diet Affairs Committee chairman of the New Conservative Party, joined Nonaka in his meeting with Tang.

Koizumi’s planned anniversary visit is seen by China and South Korea as an attempt to justify Japan’s wartime atrocities.

Yasukuni Shrine honors around 2.5 million Japanese who have died in wars since the mid-19th century.

Since 1978, it has also honored seven Class A war criminals tried and hanged after World War II, including Gen. Hideki Tojo, a wartime prime minister.

Koizumi in thought

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Thursday told Wu Dawei, the new Chinese ambassador to Japan, that he will decide whether to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine after listening to various opinions and giving the issue careful consideration.

Koizumi also told the ambassador during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence that Japan places great importance on its ties with China, a major power in the region, according to a government official.

China is strongly opposed to Koizumi’s proposed visit to the Shinto shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead.

Koizumi made the remarks after Wu, who arrived in Japan late July, revealed he had told Chinese government officials that, in his view, the prime minister will not go ahead with the visit, according to the official.

The ambassador said he holds this view as Koizumi needs to maintain good relations with Japan’s neighbors in order to push ahead with his reform agenda.

Wu also said he believes Koizumi is well aware of the importance of Japan’s relations with China, according to the official.

“I have said in Beijing that I think the prime minister will make a correct decision on this matter,” the official quoted Wu as saying during the meeting.

Koizumi has said he wants to visit the shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

He insists that the visit is aimed at paying tribute to the war dead in the hope that there will be no more victims of war in the future.

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