China Wednesday expressed "dissatisfaction and regret" over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's remarks about justifying his visits to a shrine for Japan's war dead.
Asked in parliament on Tuesday if he felt reluctant to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 convicted "Class A" war criminals among 2.5 million other Japanese killed in wartime, Koizumi said: "I have no such feeling."
Since taking office in 2001, Koizumi has paid four visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, with the latest taking place on New Year's Day.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Wednesday that "China firmly opposes" visits by the Japanese leader to the shrine.
China hopes Koizumi does not take actions that will offend people from countries victimized by Japan in wartime, she said.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was in Japan for talks on security issues and other matters, met Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi yesterday in Tokyo.
Wang said Japan's post-war development as well as its current international status are based on introspective reflection of its historical aggression to other nations.
"Any remarks and practices which justify war criminals will destroy such a base, and is not good for Japan as it tries to establish trust with neighboring countries," Wang was quoted as saying.
Koizumi told a parliamentary committee that the outcry from other countries "doesn't worry me," and he has "no intention of changing my feelings on this matter."
Kawaguchi told Wang the Japanese Government will adhere to the spirits of the speech made by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995, who admitted that Japan's colonial rule and aggression had caused tremendous suffering to many Asian countries.
Wang said China and Japan should not ignore their history if they want to advance bilateral ties.
The only correct attitude is to "take history as a mirror and face the future," according to Wang.
Further, Chinese President Hu Jintao met Takenori Kanzaki, head of the New Komeito Party Wednesday in Beijing. The party is in an alliance with Koizumi's Liberal Democrats to govern Japan.
It was reported that Koizumi asked Kanzaki to deliver a letter to President Hu, requesting a bilateral meeting. This has not been confirmed by Chinese officials.
However, a leading Chinese expert on Japanese affairs told China Daily yesterday that chances for a visit by Koizumi to China are "not optimistic" because of his recent remarks.
There are several major problems with Sino-Japanese relations, and Koizumi's consecutive visits to the Yasukuni Shrine has been one of them, said Professor Yang Bojiang, director of Northeast Asian Studies Division of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
"The possibility of inviting Koizumi to visit Beijing officially has been further reduced," Yang said.
However, he said the two leaders are able to meet on other occasions, such as international conferences.
Bilateral relations are developing very quickly in economic and trade sectors but political relations are lagging behind, according to Yang.
The volume of bilateral economic and trade reached a record US$133.58 billion last year, up 31.1 per cent over the previous year.
In another development, spokeswoman Zhang said on Tuesday China resolutely opposes and will absolutely not accept Japan's attempt to impose pressure on China on the issue of Diaoyu Islands with a third country.
Zhang made the remarks in response to the question of a reporter who referred to a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman as reportedly saying recently that the United States would fulfill its obligation of defence in view of the security pact with Japan if the Diaoyu Islands were attacked.
(China Daily February 12, 2004)