CHINA / National

FM: Ties with Japan face problems
Updated: 2006-04-05 15:02

China condemned repeated visits by Japanese leaders to a war shrine in Tokyo, saying Tuesday that ties between the two Asian powers were facing "harsh difficulties" as a result.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said relations have "failed to improve" in the past year.

"The responsibility does not lie with China or the Japanese people," Liu said at a regular briefing. "It is because the Japanese leaders have taken an erroneous attitude and insist on paying visits to the Yasukuni Shrine ... The political basis for bilateral relations are undermined."

The shrine honors 2.5 million war dead, including convicted war criminals from World War II. South Korea also has disapproved of the visits.

Tensions between China and Japan have been brewing over competing claims to undersea resources and Beijing's growing military power. Also, the one-year anniversary is approaching of demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai against Japan's use of schoolbooks that critics say downplay Tokyo's wartime aggression.

"China-Japan relations are faced with harsh difficulties and a difficult period," Liu said. "We hope that Japanese leaders will proceed from the overall interest of relations between the two sides and the development of Asia and adopt a correct attitude on historical issues."

Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao told a goodwill delegation from Tokyo he was willing to hold a summit with Japanese leaders if Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stopped visiting the shrine. Koizumi has done so five times since taking office.

It was a rare conciliatory gesture from Hu, who last met with Koizumi at a regional conference in Jakarta in 2005.

Japanese officials criticized the offer Tuesday, saying it made no sense.

"Don't you have to meet with someone if you want to resolve a problem?" Foreign Minister Taro Aso said.