Japan-China war shrine row eases - China ambassador

Updated: 2006-12-12 08:58

BEIJING - Discord between China and Japan over a controversial Tokyo war shrine has eased, but broader tensions driven by China's rising clout remain, the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo said in a report published on Monday.

Beijing and Tokyo have "finally overcome this political impediment damaging bilateral relations," Chinese Ambassador Wang Yi said of the Yasukuni Shrine in an interview published by the Xinhua news agency. "The political stalemate has been broken."

Previous Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi fuelled a diplomatic row by repeatedly visiting the shrine, where wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals are honoured among war dead, making it for many in Asia an unapologetic symbol of Japan's aggression in Asia before and during World War Two.

New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been working hard to repair relations, and he visited Beijing in October, shortly after taking office. Abe has defended Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni and paid his own respects there in the past, but has refused to say whether he would visit there as prime minister.

Wang's remarks came two days after the two countries' foreign ministers met and Tokyo invited a top Chinese leader to visit Japan in spring next year, breaking a long period when bitter rifts over Yasukuni deterred high-level visits.

But Wang warned of deeper tensions between the two Asian powers.

"Many of the conflicts and friction in China-Japan relations in recent years have surfaced over the Yasukuni Shrine issue, but the broader background is that the national strength of both countries has risen to differing degrees," he said.

Wang also suggested that Tokyo was having trouble accepting China's emergence as a regional power with trade and political clout.

"A senior Japanese official told me that China's development and rise is a fact we must face up to, but just as the United States in the 1980s could not adjust to Japan's rise, now many in Japan are not mentally prepared to accept China's development," Wang said.

The two countries have wrangled over ownership of gas fields in the East China Sea. Beijing is also wary of Tokyo's efforts to escape the limits of its pacifist post-war constitution on military activity abroad, and has opposed Japan's push for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

"Truly smoothing China-Japan relations needs time and constant efforts by both sides," Wang said.

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