China urges Japan to halt war shrine visits
Updated: 2006-08-07 14:32
China urged Japan on Monday to stop visits by its leaders to the Yasukuni
Shrine for war dead, just days after a report that Shinzo Abe, the front-runner
to become Japan's next prime minister had secretly paid his respects there
earlier this year.
Shinzo Abe (2nd L), Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary and
front-runner to become Japan's next prime minister, is led by a Shinto
priest as he visits the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo to pay
tribute to the war dead in this August 15, 2005 file photo. Abe made a
secret pilgrimage earlier this year to the Tokyo war shrine seen by China
and South Korea as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, media reports said
on 4 August, 2006. [Reuters]
China, where many suffered under Japanese aggression before and during World
War Two, has not specifically criticised the reported pilgrimage by Shinzo Abe,
seen as the most likely candidate to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
when he steps down in September.
"We want top Japanese officials to call an immediate halt to visits to
Yasukuni, where Class A war criminals are enshrined," Chinese foreign ministry
spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters during a visit to Tokyo. "Dealing with the
history problem based on a correct view of history will be to the benefit of
both the Japanese and Chinese peoples," he added.
Yasukuni is seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
Fourteen wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as "Class A" war
criminals are honoured there alongside 2.5 million war dead, and a war museum
within the shrine grounds is often criticised as glorifying war.
"It may be that people mistakenly believe that China's attitude towards
Yasukuni has changed in some ways," Liu said when asked why China had not issued
an immediate condemnation last week. "In fact the attitude of the Chinese
government and people to the history problem is consistent and has not changed."
Liu declined to speculate on the effect on bilateral ties if Abe takes over
as premier next month.
"It is up to the Japanese people to decide who will be the next prime
minister," Liu said. "China will welcome anyone who makes an effort to improve
bilateral relations," he said.
Abe himself declined to confirm or deny the reported pilgrimage during a
Monday news conference.
Liu emphasised the improvement in bilateral ties over recent months,
following two meetings between the countries' respective foreign ministers and
said China was willing to hold another such meeting, possibly in