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Shinzo Abe, deputy secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, urged China on Wednesday to resume top-level exchanges with Japan and set aside its dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

The two countries failed to arrange talks between Koizumi and Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the three-day summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting that starts Thursday — reportedly as a result of soured relations over Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni, which enshrines several Class-A war criminals as well as Japan’s war dead.

“I realize China is angry over the prime minister visiting Yasukuni,” Abe told a lecture at a Tokyo hotel. “But it is ridiculous that they don’t hold a summit because of it. Even (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il has had talks with Koizumi twice already.”

No matter how much China tries to dissuade Koizumi from visiting Yasukuni by refusing to hold a summit with Japan, he should not stop going to the shrine, Abe said.

“I believe it is a matter of course that the prime minister visits Yasukuni by his own judgment, and there’s no need to stop just because China tells (him to do so).”

Abe went on to express concern over a recent push in South Korea for legislation that would open up investigations of alleged collaborators of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Such a move, he said, would have a negative impact on Tokyo-Seoul ties.

Abe, known as a hardliner toward North Korea, said Japan is ready to make “flexible use” of recently enacted laws allowing economic sanctions against the North if Pyongyang fails to deal seriously with the abduction issue.

China talks ‘possible’

China’s envoy to Japan told the head of New Komeito on Wednesday that a meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao may be possible on the sidelines of the November summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Chile, party lawmakers said.

“There was a strong request by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and China also places importance on it. We would like it to be a meeting to build a strong foundation for China-Japan relations,” Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi was quoted by the lawmakers as telling Takenori Kanzaki at a meeting in Tokyo.

New Komeito is the ruling coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is led by Koizumi.

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