The government plans to have Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hold talks with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Shanghai in October to try to mend soured relations, government sources said.

Koizumi will try to restore relations with the two neighbors, who were angered by his visit Monday to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to Japan’s war dead, the sources said Tuesday.

He is expected to tell Chinese President Jiang Zemin and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung that his visit was meant as a way of paying homage to all Japanese who lost their lives during the war, the sources said.

China and South Korea have severely criticized Koizumi for visiting the Shinto shrine, where 14 Class A war criminals are honored along with the nation’s 2.47 million war dead.

The plan to hold talks with the two presidents on the sidelines of the Oct. 20-21 APEC summit reflects the statement that Koizumi issued Monday.

In the statement, he said, “If circumstances permit, I would like to have opportunities as soon as possible to have face to face meetings with leaders of China and South Korea in order to exchange views on the peace and development of the Asia-Pacific region of the future” and to talk about his views regarding Yasukuni Shrine.

However, a senior Foreign Ministry official said relations with the two countries could worsen further if they reject Tokyo’s proposal to hold the meetings.

“It is certain that they will ask Japan whether its leader will visit the shrine next year,” another senior ministry official said.

It is better to explain Japan’s position to the two countries after the government sets up a panel in September to study the construction of a nonsectarian national war cemetery that could replace Yasukuni Shrine as Japan’s war memorial, the official said.

Seoul’s regret

South Korea’s ambassador to Japan 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 Sang Yong was speaking to Vice Foreign Minister Yoshiji Nogami.

“We cannot help but be concerned about the consequences of (Koizumi’s) visit on bilateral relations, at a time when the issue of (a contentious Japanese history) textbook has also not been resolved,” a ministry official quoted Choi as saying.

Seoul and Beijing have denounced the history text in question for glossing over Japan’s imperialism and wartime atrocities.

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

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