• Kyodo

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Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Japan on Sunday to put its wartime history behind it and begin contributing to the overall prosperity of East Asia, Japanese and Singaporean officials said.

In talks with Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Lee was quoted as saying that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Aug. 13 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are among those honored, has upset other Asian countries.

Lee said the statement that Koizumi issued prior to his visit to the Shinto shrine “was a helpful official acknowledgment that Japan had undertaken a war of aggression in the Second World War, and that the Japanese government felt deep regret for this,” according to a Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman.

But he also pointed out that Japan has not succeeded in coming to terms with its role in the war, and because of the status and history of the shrine, Koizumi’s visit “has been seen by some as endorsing Japan’s actions in the war,” the spokesman said.

Lee voiced hope that Japan can overcome its past as Germany has done, saying this will help Japan to continue building trust and confidence with other East Asian countries, the spokesman said.

Separately, Yamasaki told reporters that Lee did not make any specific suggestions as to what Tokyo should do to move ahead with building solid relations with its neighbors.

Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class A war criminals are honored along with some 2.5 million Japanese war dead, angered some of Japan’s neighbors, particularly China and South Korea.

On other issues, Yamasaki said he and Lee reaffirmed the importance of a bilateral free trade agreement that the two countries have been negotiating and added that they also compared notes on Indonesia. Yamasaki was in Singapore as part of a nine-day tour of five Southeast Asian countries that began Thursday.

He visited Indonesia before his arrival in Singapore, and will also visit Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam before returning home.

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