Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura expressed confidence Monday that his country can improve its relations with other Asian countries despite the issue of the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.
South Korea, China and other Asian countries, which suffered under Japanese colonization and aggression before and during World War II, have strongly protested Japanese leaders' visits to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
Machimura told a news conference that "it is not correct to argue Japan cannot have good relations with countries like China and South Korea just because of having the Yasukuni issue."
"This is not a matter in which a single issue tarnishes all other remaining things," Machimura said on the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
He said that Japan has had wide-ranging interchanges and diplomatic relations with China and South Korea.
The foreign minister underscored the importance for Japan and its Asian neighbors to strive to establish better relations after acknowledging differences over the Yasukuni Shrine and overcoming problems stemming from these differences.
Annual visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the notorious shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals responsible for Japan's war of aggression against its Asian neighbors, have sparked strong protests from China and South Korea.
Koizumi has indicated he would not visit the shrine around Monday, the day of Japan's surrender in WWII.
Koizumi made his most recent visit to the shrine on January 1 last year, the fourth since taking office in April 2001.
China considers the visits by Japanese leaders to the shrine as one of the most difficult issues in China-Japan political relations.
In a written statement on Monday, the Japanese prime minister said Japan had caused tremendous damage and suffering to Asian countries due to its colonial rule and military aggression.
"We humbly accept this kind of historical fact and express anew our deep remorse and sincere apology," he said.
"Japan is resolved to contribute to world peace and prosperity without starting a war again," the prime minister said in the statement, which the Cabinet approved earlier Monday.
(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2005)