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Wen: Yasukuni Shrine Visits Must End
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Japan's new leadership should remove political obstacles in bilateral relations by ending visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Monday.


The top-level visits by Japanese leaders, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the shrine that honors convicted class-A WWII war criminals have deeply hurt the feelings of Chinese and Asian people, and have also formed political obstacles in Sino-Japanese relations, Wen said.


Wen added that China and Japan are neighbors that should have a long-term friendship, and he hoped that Koizumi's successor would deal with the issue appropriately to normalize bilateral relations.


Koizumi is due to step down as prime minister later this month, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe is widely expected to win the contest for his position on September 20.


The normalization of bilateral ties will benefit the people of the two countries as well as world peace, Wen added.


The visiting Chinese premier made the remarks when asked by reporters if he had any contact with his Japanese counterpart Koizumi during the two-day 6th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Finland, which concluded on Monday.


Wen said that they exchanged simple greetings, but did not have any other contact.


Chinese and South Korean leaders have refused to hold bilateral meetings with Koizumi, angered by his annual visits to the shrine. 


With regard to the situation in Taiwan, where tens of thousands of people are protesting against scandal-plagued leader Chen Shui-bian, Wen declined to make any direct comment.


"This is a question that should be resolved by Taiwan people themselves," Wen said, but he added that the central government always pushes for cross-Straits cooperation as well as direct postal, transportation and business links across the Taiwan Straits.


"We will continue to do things that are good for Taiwan people, but will keep alert to speeches by the Taiwan leader on 'Taiwan independence'," he said.


Chen is at the center of corruption allegations and is under pressure to step down as leader.


Wen on Monday reiterated his strong support for Margaret Chan from Hong Kong who is running for the position of director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).


"The central government regards Chan as the best candidate for the post," he said, noting that he has asked foreign leaders he met on the sideline of the ASEM summit to support China's nomination.


Chan, 58, used to serve as the WHO's assistant director-general for communicable diseases. She joined the Geneva-based agency in 2003 after serving for four years as Hong Kong's Director of Health.


(China Daily September 13, 2006)

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