• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday expressed “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s wartime wrongdoings.

The gesture, while repeating the gist of what Japan said a decade ago, was apparently aimed at mending ties with Japan’s Asian neighbors.

Separately, Koizumi told reporters Friday that he is arranging to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday in Jakarta — a closely watched summit that could help mend strained bilateral ties.

In a speech delivered during a meeting of Asian and African leaders in the Indonesian capital, Koizumi also made a pitch for U.N. Security Council reform and underscored Tokyo’s qualifications as a potential permanent member of the U.N. decision-making body.

Koizumi said: “In the past, Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.

“Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility.

“With feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind, Japan has resolutely maintained . . . its principle of resolving all matters by peaceful means, without recourse to use of force.”

Koizumi’s comments were based on a 1995 speech made by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama when he marked the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

It marks the first time in more than a decade that a Japanese prime minister has restated them during a speech at an overseas international gathering.

The last time a prime minister did so was in 1991, when then Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu expressed remorse for Japan’s militarist past during a speech in Singapore.

Koizumi was apparently hoping to improve relations with China and South Korea, which have chilled recently.

China and South Korea have complained about Japan’s approval of a revisionist history textbook criticized for glossing over Japan’s wartime atrocities. Beijing and Seoul are also bothered by Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Class-A war criminals along with Japan’s war dead.

In Friday’s speech, Koizumi also pushed for reform of the U.N. Security Council, saying changes must be made for the council to function in step with today’s needs.

He said: “The United Nations should continue to serve in the center-most role in international cooperation.

“Yet, in order for it to respond effectively to the various challenges that the world now faces, the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, needs to be reformed, so that the organization reflects the realities of the today’s world.”

But uncertainty hangs over the outlook for UNSC reform. The United States and China — both permanent members with veto power — have reacted negatively toward a proposal by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to decide on the expansion of the council by September.

Britain, France and Russia are the other permanent council members, while there are 10 temporary members elected on a rotational basis every two years.

In his speech, Koizumi emphasized Japan’s past contributions to global development and repeated its commitment to do more.

“Japan will continue its efforts toward the goal of providing official development assistance of 0.7 percent of our gross national income,” he said. “Japan will ensure a credible and sufficient level of ODA.”

Japan is prepared to do more for Africa, Koizumi said, adding that Tokyo would double its ODA over the next three years, most of which will be grant aid.

He also said that Japan would host an international conference on African development again in 2008. The conference has been held in Tokyo three times. For Japan, obtaining support from Africa, which accounts for a quarter of U.N. member states, is crucial for its bid to win a seat on the Security Council.

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