South Korean Ambassador to Japan Choi Sang Yong said Tuesday that his government “strongly regrets” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on Monday to pay homage to Japan’s war dead.

Choi’s remarks Tuesday came during a morning meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Yoshiji Nogami at the Foreign Ministry.

During the meeting, Choi said South Korea is very disappointed that Koizumi paid his respects to Japanese war criminals, who are enshrined at Yasukuni along with the war dead.

“We cannot help but be concerned about the consequences of (Koizumi’s) visit on bilateral relations, at a time when the the issue of (a contentious Japanese history) textbook has also not been resolved,” a ministry official quoted Choi as telling Nogami. Seoul and Beijing have denounced the history text in question for glossing over Japan’s imperialism and wartime atrocities.

However, the ambassador did not refer to any specific diplomatic measures that Seoul may take in retaliation.

Nogami explained that Koizumi’s visit did not represent any glorification of the last war or indicate that Japan was tilting toward the right.

“The prime minister made a political decision not to visit the shrine on Aug. 15 in light of various opinions,” Nogami was quoted as saying in seeking Choi’s understanding that Koizumi gave due consideration to Japan’s neighbors.

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