In August 1988, the Japanese ambassador to China urged Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita not to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, months before his trip to the country, declassified diplomatic records showed Wednesday.

On March 1, 1988, Ambassador Toshijiro Nakajima briefed Takeshita for some 20 minutes about the situation in China and the two countries’ relationship, according to the records.

Nakajima told Takeshita that although he fully understands there are various difficult circumstances in Japan, he wanted the prime minister to absolutely avoid visiting the controversial Shinto shrine in Tokyo, particularly before the planned trip to the neighboring country.

Nakajima added that even visiting the shrine in a group would not gain understanding from the Chinese side. The shrine, which honors Class-A World War II criminals alongside millions of war dead, is considered to be a symbol of Japan’s past militarism in China and other Asian countries.

Takeshita said he fully understood Nakajima’s concerns, though he added that their briefing must be kept secret. The prime minister did not visit the shrine during his tenure.

In early August that year, shortly before Takeshita’s visit to China, Vice Foreign Minister Ryohei Murata wrote a report about his impressions of Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and other senior Chinese government officials that he had met during his official trip to China.

Citing Japan’s rise as a major economic power, its defense spending growth and an official visit to Yasukuni by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985, Murata said China sees signs of an increasingly supercilious Japan through Tokyo’s policies and explanations related to wartime issues.

The report also said that China hopes to make Takeshita’s visit a turning point in the bilateral relations. Murata explained that expectations were running high in China that Takeshita was likely to take a more considerate stance toward China, move Japan to assume a humble attitude and promote cooperative measures.

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