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Leaders Must Stop Shrine Visits
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Japanese leaders should stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine to restore damaged Sino-Japanese relations, says a signed article in the Oriental Morning Post. An excerpt follows:

The visit to China by seven Japanese groups among them former Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and other eminent figures, entrepreneurs and social activists has helped thaw frosty Sino-Japanese relations, which are currently at a standstill.

The visit will help create an atmosphere for the resumption of high-level exchanges between the two neighbors.

In recent years, Japanese leaders have made pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japanese militarism, plunging Japanese ties with China to their lowest point since the normalization of relations. Because of the shrine visits, the two nations have not witnessed reciprocal visits by their top leaders for years.

Deteriorating relations have also made it difficult for the two nations to solve emerging disputes, such as that over gas exploration in the East China Sea.

In his talks with the Japanese delegation, President Hu Jintao said Chinese leaders were willing to hold talks with their Japanese counterparts on the improvement and development of bilateral ties if the latter made an explicit decision to stop the Yasukuni visits.

His expression is a positive signal and also a precondition for the promotion of a good Sino-Japanese relationship.

To steer the relationship between the two countries out of its current hardship, Japanese politicians should view relations with its Asian neighbors from a long-term and responsible perspective.

In the coming Japanese elections, whoever becomes the new leader will have an historical mission on his shoulders to improve damaged Sino-Japanese ties.

Since the end of World War II, the people of the two neighboring countries have made relentless efforts to restore and rebuild collapsed trust and friendship.

However, the hard-won friendship will be easily played with by a certain group of politicians if no common historical perspective is built.

(China Daily April 4, 2006)


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