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Yasukuni Still Jeopardizing Relations
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Members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party yesterday vowed to continue visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, widely seen by the country's Asian neighbors as glorifying Japan's militaristic past.


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members declared at their annual convention that: "We will carry on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, to mourn those who sacrificed their lives for the foundation of the country, to make an anti-war pledge and to renew our commitment to peace."


The announcement, posted on the party's website, came a mere two days after Premier Wen Jiabao met Abe in the Philippines, during which Wen accepted an invitation to visit Japan.


Wen's visit, tentatively set for April, is seen as a sign of warming relations between the two countries, whose ties were strained after Abe's predecessor Junichiro Koizumi made repeated pilgrimages to the shrine.


Abe, who in the past made regular visits to the shrine, has shied away from doing so since becoming prime minister in September.


The announcement demonstrated the intention of some LDP members to stick to the right-wing policy adopted by Koizumi.


However, such a policy is unlikely to become a major part of Abe's new Asian strategy that seeks good neighborly ties with China and South Korea, said Xu Zhixian, an expert on Japanese affairs with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.


Abe visited China and South Korea in October, shortly after taking office. The visits played an important role in mending Japan's strained relations with its neighbors.


"Abe's visit has helped Japan's relations with China and South Korea climb out of a stalemate, and I don't think he will change the policy toward China and other Asian nations (by conducting a personal pilgrimage to the shrine)," said Xu in an interview with China Daily.


Diplomatic preparations


A flurry of diplomatic meetings will take place ahead of Wen's visit, along with activities commemorating the 35th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations.


Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, led a delegation to meet the Democratic Party of Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday.


Wang, describing Wen's visit as "important and significant," said he hoped the two countries could make joint efforts to make the trip a success.


Japan's Kyodo News Service reported on Tuesday that senior lawmakers from the ruling coalition are considering visiting China for talks with top officials in March.


The report, citing unidentified officials, said Hidenao Nakagawa, secretary-general of the LDP, and his counterpart from the New Komeito Party, Kazuo Kitagawa, wished to hold talks with either President Hu Jintao or Premier Wen.


Another pair of senior lawmakers from the LDP and the New Komeito, former Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai and Yoshio Urushibara, are set to start a four-day visit to China on Saturday.


(China Daily January 18, 2007)

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