National

Kono China visit seen as bid to douse Yasukuni ire

House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono will make a six-day visit to China from Sept. 20 at the invitation of Beijing, according to sources close to the parliamentary leader.

Plans are under way for Kono to hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the sources said.

Political analysts said China hopes to meet Kono, known as one of the leading doves among Japanese lawmakers, given that relations between Tokyo and Beijing have soured due to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

The issue over the shrine has derailed efforts for a visit by Koizumi to China and a similar move by his Chinese counterpart.

Since becoming prime minister in April 2001, Koizumi has made four visits to Yasukuni Shrine, the latest in January. The shrine honors Japan’s war dead as well as convicted war criminals, and is viewed by many as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past.

Kono, who previously served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister, has avoided directly criticizing Koizumi over diplomatic affairs. However, he has often stressed the importance of multilateral diplomacy in contrast to Koizumi’s emphasis on diplomacy with the U.S..

During his China trip, Kono is expected to sound a warning to Koizumi, by calling for a policy that places emphasis on Asia, the sources said.

Kono will also visit the United States from Sept. 6 to 13 and meet with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, among others.

On Sept. 11, Kono will attend a Group of Eight meeting in Chicago.

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