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China-Japan Ties Soured by Shrine Visits

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson yesterday expressed the government's indignation over remarks made by Japanese leaders about controversial shrine visits while explaining why a meeting between Vice Premier Wu Yi and the Japanese prime minister was cancelled on Monday.


"To our regret, during Wu's stay in Japan, Japanese leaders repeatedly made remarks about visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which go against efforts to improve bilateral relations, and China is extremely unsatisfied with the situation," said Kong Quan at Tuesday's regular press conference.


Wu arrived in Japan last Tuesday to attend the 2005 World Expo but cancelled a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before leaving the country a day early.


Kong said the government attached great importance to Sino-Japanese relations and had made unremitting efforts to improve and develop bilateral relations, adding that Wu's visit was the best demonstration of this determination.


He stressed the tour did achieve some positive results, including Wu's participation in the China Day of the World Expo, and her two speeches concerning the promotion of Sino-Japanese economic ties.


Beijing has repeatedly criticized Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class-A WWII war criminals are honored among Japan's war dead.


On May 16, Koizumi indicated that he might visit the shrine again this year during questioning by Japan's House of Representatives Budget Committee, saying: "I do not understand why I should stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine."


Koizumi said last Friday that when he visited the shrine he did so as a private individual and not as the prime minister.


"Under current circumstances, especially as the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the victory over fascism, some Japanese leaders, in great disregard of the feelings of the Chinese people, made some wrong and incorrect remarks about the Yasukuni Shrine," Kong said.


"They are showing no sense of rightfulness in their hearts while they are doing this," he said in response to Japan's demand for an apology for the cancelled meeting, adding that 35 million Chinese people died during Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China from 1937 to 1945.


Kong said China sincerely hoped the two countries could make joint efforts to fulfill President Hu Jintao's five-point proposal on improving relations, initiated during his meeting with Koizumi on April 23 in Jakarta on the sidelines of the Asia-Africa Summit.


Kong said Wu's current visit to Mongolia "is of great significance" to the development of bilateral relations.


During the "very important visit," Wu will meet Mongolian President Nachagyn Bagabandy, President-elect and Chairman of the Great State Hural (parliament) Nambaryn Enkhbayar, and Prime Minister Tsakhia Elbegdorj.


Wu will also hold talks with Mongolian Deputy Prime Minister Chultemiin Ulaan on a wide range of topics, Kong said.


These meetings will serve as good opportunities for leaders to sum up the major achievements in the development of bilateral relations over the past few years and draw plans for mutually beneficial cooperation in the future, he added.


Kong announced that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will visit the Middle East late next month, though detailed plans are yet to be drawn up. The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas recently wrapped up his China visit.


He expressed the belief that the visit would further deepen China's understanding of these nations. 


Kong said China is very concerned about the current situation there. "On the one hand, China sees some positive signs; on the other hand, it notes some difficulties in restarting the Middle East peace process," he said.


"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will, as always, work with the international community to play a constructive role in restarting the peace process," Kong added.


Turning to the Sino-Russian border issue, Kong said China is glad to see the ratification of a supplementary agreement on the China-Russia eastern border by Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma.


Russian lawmakers voted 307-80 with two abstentions to approve the agreement last Friday.


"China hopes the upper house of the Russian parliament will ratify the supplementary agreement in the near future, which will help it to take effect at an early date," Kong said.


"Our goal is to make the Sino-Russian border a peaceful, cooperative and friendly one," he said.


Russia and China signed the agreement during President Vladimir Putin's visit to China last October.


It defines two sections that constitute less than 2 percent of the Russian-Chinese border. The dispute has been left unsettled since 1991 when the two sides signed a treaty on the eastern part of the common border. Russia and China share a 4,300 km-long boundary that has been defined by the two sides.


Moving on to Uzbekistan, Kong said China firmly supports the Central Asian country's moves to crack down on the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and maintain domestic and regional stability for peaceful development.


China expects to strengthen cooperation with Uzbekistan in all fields, Kong said in response to a question about the recent chaos in the Uzbek city of Andijan, which he said was Uzbekistan's internal affair.


"To safeguard stability in Central Asia, priority should be given to cracking down on the 'three evil forces,' which is also the major objective of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," Kong said.


China hopes the domestic situation in Uzbekistan would become peaceful soon with the restoration of normal social order so that the people of the country could resume their normal life, he added.


Commenting on the coming visit of Uzbek President Islam Karimov beginning Wednesday, Kong said he is scheduled to hold talks with Hu and meet with Premier Wen Jiabao.


Leaders of the two countries are expected to discuss concrete ideas and measures to strengthen bilateral cooperation in various fields, exchange views on regional and international issues, and sign cooperative documents, said Kong.


"China is expecting further progress in relations with Uzbekistan in all fields through this visit," he added. 


Kong announced that New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Elizabeth Clark will visit from May 29 to 31 at the invitation of Wen. 


(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency May 25, 2005)

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Vice Premier Wu Yi Arrives in Mongolia
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Hu Meets Japanese Party Officials
Koizumi Says He Visits Shrine as a Private Individual
Chinese, Palestinian Leaders Hold Talks
Uzbek President Rejects Int'l Probe into Unrest
China Initiates Five Proposals on Ties with Japan
Wen Told Koizumi: Shrine Visits Hurt Ties
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China, Russia Agree on Borders, WTO Entry
Chinese Foreign Ministry
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