National

No hurry to soothe China

Secular war memorial on back burner despite soccer jeers

The recent jeering of Japanese by Chinese soccer fans in the Asian Cup soccer tournament in China has not prompted Japan to speed up talks over a proposed secular war memorial, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Thursday.

“We don’t see it as an opportunity to do that. We would rather wait and hear the public’s opinion,” Hosoda told a news conference when asked whether Tokyo would pursue such a memorial to help soothe anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

Building a national secular memorial for the war dead was proposed in December 2002 by a government advisory panel as a means to help settle the controversy over top government officials visiting Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to Japan’s war dead and also enshrines Class-A war criminals.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has visited the shrine every year since taking office in April 2001, and has vowed to continue doing so.

The visits have prevented Koizumi from visiting China since President Hu Jintao was inaugurated in March 2003.

The Shinto shrine in Tokyo is viewed as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

In the Asian Cup tournament, Chinese fans booed the Japanese national anthem and expressed anti-Japanese sentiment in other forms at every match the Japanese have played so far.

The behavior apparently reflects the nation’s lingering resentment toward Japan for its wartime aggression in China.

Later Thursday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wu Dawei told Koizumi during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence that China has taken all necessary measures as host nation to ensure the safety of Japanese players and fans at the Asian Cup finals on Saturday, when the two nations will face off.

The meeting was set for Wu, who will soon leave his post, to exchange words of farewell with the prime minister.

On Wednesday in Beijing, a Chinese official said China hopes soccer fans will behave well at the Asian Cup final.

“We are very happy to see that the Chinese team and Japanese team both made it to the final with outstanding performances,” the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Kong Quan as saying. “We hope Chinese and Japanese football fans will enjoy a wonderful match on Aug. 7 with good behavior.”

Kong said some elements of the Japanese media have played up the anti-Japanese behavior of some Chinese fans.

Unruly fans are commonplace at key international soccer matches and the Chinese government “does not agree with such behavior,” Kong was quoted as saying.

He said it was regrettable that some Japanese media outlets have heavily focused on the hostile Chinese fans and tried to link their behavior to politics.

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