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Japan seeks to end war of words with China
Updated: 2005-05-25 13:52

Japan's top government spokesman sought on Wednesday to cool the latest war of words between Tokyo and Beijing, saying he would no longer comment on China's abrupt cancellation of a meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and visiting Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi.

The talks that were to have taken place on Monday had been seen as another opportunity for China and Japan to mend relations, which have been frayed by a long list of disputes.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi waves as she leaves Tokyo's Haneda airport for Beijing on Monday, May 23, 2005.
Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi waves as she leaves Tokyo's Haneda airport for Beijing on Monday, May 23, 2005.[AP]
Beijing initially said Wu had to cancel due to sudden commitments at home, but Chinese officials later made it clear the main reason related to remarks by Koizumi about his visits to a shine honoring Japan's war dead.

"Commenting further would not be constructive for Japan-China relations, so I will not comment," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference on Wednesday.

"One is asked to comment and part of the comment is relayed to the other side and then they're asked to comment on that. I think repeating this is not good for Japan-China ties.

"It is our objective to remove the various problems that lie between Japan and China and to develop our relations," he said. "I think the same goes for China."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said on Tuesday the comments over Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine had spoiled the "necessary and appropriate atmosphere for such a meeting."

Wu, the top-ranking woman in the Chinese government, was the most senior Beijing official to visit Japan since 2003.

Japan's relations with China have been troubled by a series of feuds, many related to Japan's war time history.

Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni, where convicted war criminals are memorialized along with 2.5 million war dead, have particularly upset China, much of which was occupied by Japan before and during World War II.

Koizumi, who last visited the shrine in January 2004, defended his visits last week, saying other countries should not interfere in how Japan paid respects to its war dead.

He said again on Tuesday that he would make an "appropriate decision" on when to go again.

The Japanese public is divided over the visits, which Koizumi has also said are meant to pray for peace.

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