The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that a visit by the Japanese foreign minister had been postponed by China in response to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
Nobutaka Machimura was scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Sunday for a two-day visit, but ministry spokesperson Kong Quan told a regular press conference that "given the current situation, it is not the proper time for such a visit and it is not convenient for China to receive him."
Beijing has repeatedly called on Tokyo to do more to atone for its war atrocities. It lodged a strong protest on Monday immediately after Koizumi's visit to the shrine, where 14 WWII Class-A war criminals are honored along with other war dead.
The visit, the fifth since Koizumi was elected prime minister in 2001, prompted a furious protest from China, with Kong calling it "a damage to the political foundation of Sino-Japanese relations."
Despite the protest, nearly 200 Japanese lawmakers paid their respects at the shrine yesterday, one day after Koizumi's visit, including leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a handful of opposition lawmakers.
Kong said China strongly opposed Japanese leaders paying tributes at the shrine "at anytime, in any form" and that Koizumi must shoulder all responsibility for the serious damage done to bilateral ties.
Media reports from Tokyo said that Japan would continue to prepare for Machimura's trip to China.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the top Japanese government spokesperson, was quoted as saying the visit was "still in the process of being coordinated."
Machimura's visit was intended to be a fence-mending trip and it is reported that he had hoped to pave the way for a meeting between Koizumi and President Hu Jintao.
Top-level exchanges between the two countries have stalled since Koizumi began paying annual visits to the shrine four years ago.
Turning to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit, Kong said China hoped it would help increase mutual understanding and trust.
Rumsfeld arrived in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon, starting a three-day official goodwill visit at the invitation of Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan.
This is Rumsfeld's first visit since taking office in January 2001 and the second visit by a US defense secretary since 2000.
Kong said Chinese state and military leaders will meet and hold talks with Rumsfeld during his stay to discuss relations between them as well as their armed forces, and international and regional issues of common concern.
Rumsfeld will also hold a seminar at the Party School of the Communist Party of China and Academy of Military Sciences.
Kong said China would join with the US in efforts to ensure that Rumsfeld's visit would be successful, and push forward the stable development of the ties between their armed forces.
However, Kong said the Taiwan issue was at the core of relations, and that China opposed all kinds of military exchanges between the US and Taiwan.
The government was also firmly opposed to any form of US-Taiwan military cooperation including US arms sales to Taiwan, he said.
China has said on many occasions that proper handling of relations with Taiwan by the US is the most important basis for the healthy, stable and sustained development of Sino-US relations.
The Chinese side valued the commitment made by US President George W. Bush and other US leaders to stick to the one-China policy, abiding by the three Sino-US joint communiqués and opposing "Taiwan independence."
Kong also announced that China has sent its envoy to Pyongyang for a three-day visit aimed at preparing for the next round of six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
Li Bin, Chinese ambassador in charge of Korean Peninsular affairs, would also visit the US and South Korea, two other participants in the talks, later in the month, he said.
The main agenda of Li's visit was to hold talks with officials responsible for the six-party talks to work out joint approaches and prepare for the fifth round in early November.
Kong said China and Russia would hold the second round of Sino-Russian Strategic Security Talks this week.
Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, as guest of State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, will visit from October 19 to 21 for the talks, he said.
Also according to Kong, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit from October 24 to 30 at the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency October 19, 2005)