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Japanese ministers visit shrine, China regrets
Updated: 2004-08-15 13:29

China expressed its "deepest regret" for Japanese politicians' visit to the Yasukuni shrine on Sunday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan used "negative hehavior" to describe the visit.

"We express our deep regret for the negative behavior adopted by a handful of political figures in Japan," Kong said in a statement.

"The Chinese side hopes the Japanese side will honor its word by facing up to history ... and not take actions that hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and peoples of other countries that were victims."


On August 15, three Japanese ministers paid homage at a controversial shrine for war dead Sunday, the 59th anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender, a move likely to anger Asian nations.

The annual visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of the militarist regime that led Japan into war, was more charged than usual given the present participation of Japanese troops in a humanitarian mission to Iraq, their riskiest overseas mission since the war.

Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei, and National Public Safety Commission chairwoman Kiyoko Ono were among a number of politicians who paid homage at the shrine. Yasukuni is dedicated to the 2.5 million Japanese who have died in wars since 1853, including a number of convicted war criminals.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has outraged Japan's Asian neighbors with his annual visits to the shrine, marked the end of the war at separate secular ceremonies.

"We want to make an active contribution to world peace and will do our utmost to gain a higher level of trust from the world," Koizumi said at a memorial ceremony, in what domestic media said was a reference to his determination to keep troops in Iraq.

Koizumi, who last went to Yasukuni on January 1, pledged earlier this week to visit the shrine again next year. He avoids Aug. 15, an emotive date for Asian nations that suffered from Japan's wartime aggression.

Past visits by Koizumi and his ministers have hampered ties with Asian neighbors, particularly China.

A tentative plan for the prime minister to travel to China in 2002 came to nothing after Beijing was infuriated by his shrine visit that year, and analysts also said that the visits were a factor behind the hostility of Chinese soccer fans toward the Japanese team at last week's Asian Cup soccer tournament.

"Our country inflicted enormous loss and suffering on many countries, particularly in Asia," Koizumi said at the ceremony. "As Japan's representative, I would like to reflect on that."


This year the anniversary was more emotionally charged than usual, given increasing calls for Japan to revise its pacifist constitution.

Friday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Japan must consider revising the constitution if it wants to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Article Nine of the postwar, U.S.-drafted constitution renounces the right to go to war and forbids a military, although it is interpreted as permitting forces for self-defense.

"If Japan is going to play a full role on the world stage and become a full active participating member of the Security Council, and have the kind of obligations that it would pick up as a member....Article Nine would have to be examined in that light," Powell was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying in an interview with Japanese media in Washington Thursday.

He added that the decision about whether to modify or change the constitution was entirely up to the Japanese people.

Powell's remarks echo those made by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to a visiting Japanese lawmaker last month.

Both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party are working on proposals to revise the constitution, but many ordinary citizens and lawmakers are opposed. An opinion poll in May showed that 70 percent of Japanese lawmakers were against revising Article Nine.

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