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Japan's Ambassador Summoned over Koizumi's Shrine Visit
The Japanese ambassador to China Koreshige Anami was summoned on Sunday by Vice-Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing who expressed China's strong objection to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine Sunday morning.

Li said the Japanese leader had visited the shrine again, in defiance of strong opposition from Japan's neighbouring countries following his previous visit.

To visit the shrine again, Li added, was an erroneous action that hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and was detrimental to Sino-Japanese relations.

The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and is firmly opposed to Japan's action, Li noted.

Koizumi's surprise visit to the shrine Sunday is his second since becoming prime minister. His first visit on August 13, 2001, drew strong protests from the Asian nations which suffered under Japanese aggression during World War II.

"China firmly opposes the Japanese leader's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in any way and at any time," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue Sunday stressed, noting that the Yasukuni Shrine is considered a symbol of Japan's wartime imperialism as the shrine houses tablets for 2.5 million war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals who were tried by the courts after World War II.

Such a move can only hurt Japan's own image and make it more difficult for the country to win the trust of other Asian countries on issues of history, the spokeswoman said.

As well as China and other Asian countries being dissatisfied with the visit by the Japanese prime minister, South Korea, Japan's co-host of the 2002 World Cup, has also voiced its frustration.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a critical statement.

"We deeply regret the Japanese prime minister's visit to the war shrine," it reads. "We are very concerned that the visit was made to remember convicted war criminals who made neighbouring nations undergo deep pain and suffer the ravages of war."

The homage, made early on a rainy morning at the Yasukuni Shrine, brought small groups of right-wing nationalists onto Tokyo streets to shout their support.

"The meaning of my visit is to express my hope that we will never have another war," a grim-faced Koizumi, dressed in formal mourning dress of black jacket, grey striped trousers and black tie, told reporters after the visit.

Asian countries are fiercely critical of visits to the shrine which they say is a symbol of Japan's unrepentant attitude towards its wartime history.

The prime minister's visit also provoked protests from opposition politicians at home.

The leader of the opposition Japanese Communist Party, Kazuo Shii, also spoke out against Sunday's visit.

"Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of a war of aggression," Shii told voters during a visit to the northwestern city of Niigata.

Suzuko Shibata, a 20-year-old English major university student, was also critical.

"If he cares so much about the Japanese who died in the war, why can't he give the same attention to the Asian people who died?" Shibata asked.

Koizumi known for his nationalist tinge, and who is now pushing through legislation that chips at the pacifist constitution, has spent months repairing the damage after he became the first prime minister in five years to visit the shrine last August.

"I do not wish to again cause anxiety in Japan and abroad or a sense of caution by visiting the shrine on or around the time of the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II," Koizumi said in a statement issued after what was described as a visit based on his personal beliefs.

"It is important to maintain our resolve to preserve peace in the future and never repeat the tragedy of war."

(China Daily April 22, 2002)

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